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Residents should take caution on Illinois River

Officials monitoring potentially harmful algal bloom

Surface water affected by blue-green algae often is strongly colored such that it can develop a paint-like appearance.
Surface water affected by blue-green algae often is strongly colored such that it can develop a paint-like appearance.

Illinois officials are monitoring water conditions on the Illinois River primarily in a stretch from Morris to Lacon, which includes Hennepin, Spring Valley, LaSalle-Peru and Ottawa.

Officials have been alerted to a possible algal bloom on the Illinois River and are actively monitoring conditions to keep communities and residents informed, according to a press release issued by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Residents are advised to use caution while recreating in, on, or near Illinois rivers, lakes and streams as blue-green algae may bloom in these waters. Some blue-green algae can produce toxins harmful to humans and animals, according to the release.

Blue-green algae (also known as a cyanobacteria) are microscopic organisms that naturally occur in lakes and streams.

A blue-green algal “bloom,” which occurs with the rapid growth of algae, has been documented along the stretch of the river between Lacon and Morris. Initial screening of a water sample taken near Hennepin indicates an elevated level of the algal toxin, microcystin.

Additional testing of samples collected will be conducted. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is also establishing a sampling schedule and coordinating visual reconnaissance with its partners for other areas along the river.

Algal toxins sometimes produced by blue-green algae can cause sickness or other adverse health effects in people and pets, depending on the amount and type of exposure.

The very young, elderly, and people with compromised immune systems are most at risk.

Adverse health effects attributable to algal toxins can occur from direct skin contact, swallowing contaminated water, or inhaling water droplets in the air. Symptoms of exposure include rashes, hives, diarrhea, vomiting, coughing or wheezing. More severe symptoms may result from longer or greater amounts of exposure.

People who plan to utilize Illinois rivers, lakes or streams are advised to avoid contact with water that:

• Looks like spilled, green or blue-green paint;

• Has surface scums, mats, or films;

• Is discolored or has green-colored streaks; or

• Has greenish globs suspended in the water below the surface.

Do not let pets drink from water with any of the above characteristics.

If you or your pet have come into contact with water you suspect may have a bloom of blue-green algae, rinse off with clean, fresh water as soon as possible. With all activities that may involve contact with lake or stream water, wash your hands before eating.

If you are concerned you have symptoms that are a result of exposure to algal toxins, contact your health care provider or call the Illinois Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222. If your pet experiences symptoms that may be a result of exposure, contact your veterinarian.

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