New Zealand plagued by blue-green algal blooms

16 February 2013

Lake Ngarato has been added to the list of Waikato lakes that are experiencing blue-green algal blooms – the others being Lakes Whangape and Waikare.  In the Nelson district, authorities have warned that the algal problems that have already resulted in the deaths of some dogs, are likely to get worse:

The toxic blue-green algae plaguing rivers in Nelson and around New Zealand will get worse, killing more dogs and putting people at risk as well, leading researcher Susie Wood says.  Dr Wood, a Cawthron Institute scientist at the forefront of international research into the naturally occurring cyanobacteria, said at least 50 dogs had died after eating the algae in various parts of New Zealand.  It was surprising that the problem had attracted so little attention, she said, given the lethal nature of the toxin, “one of the most toxic natural compounds you’ll ever come in contact with”.

Dr Wood’s comments are entirely generic and reflective of the general non-response of many countries to the problems of eutrophication, with blue-green algae being the most-common symptom.

The Canterbury Medical Officer of Health has issued a warning against swimming in the Selwyn River in the area immediately downstream from the Glentunnel campsite, after toxic blue-green algae were found.

South Africa's Berg River (Photo: Bill Harding)

South Africa’s Berg River (Photo: Bill Harding)

Crossing the US, inadequately-treated wastewater has been cited as the cause of algal blooms in the Rogue River – with concerns being raised about impacts on the salmon fishery.  In South Africa, the provincial Department of Environment Affairs and Development Planning (DEADP) in Cape Town have initiated a study to identify immediately-implementable solutions to wastewater and urban-runoff pollution in the Berg River, a major economic watercourse.  The study is being led by Lyners Consulting Engineers.

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