Health Warning – toxic algae found in Ashley River/ Rakahuri at SH1 Bridge

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Source: Environment Canterbury Regional Council – Press Release/Statement:

Headline: Health Warning – toxic algae found in Ashley River/ Rakahuri at SH1 Bridge

The Community and Public Health division of the Canterbury District Health board has issued a health warning after the potentially toxic blue-green algae cyanobacteria Lyngbya and Phormidium was found in the Ashley River/ Rakahuri at the State Highway One (SH1) Bridge.

People and animals, particularly dogs, should avoid the Ashley River/ Rakahuri at the SH1 Bridge until the health warning has been lifted. 

Dr Alistair Humphrey, Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, says the algae look like dark brown to black mats and can produce toxins harmful to people and animals.

“Exposure may cause skin rashes, nausea, stomach cramps, tingling and numbness around the mouth and fingertips,” Dr Humphrey says.

“If you experience any of these symptoms, visit your doctor immediately, also let your doctor know if you’ve had contact with dark brown/black algal mats or water in this area.”

Dr Humphrey says reticulated town water supplies are currently safe but no one should drink the water from the river at any time.

“Even after boiling the water from the river, it does not remove the toxin therefore should not be consumed,” he says.

Animals showing signs of illness after coming into contact with algal mats should be taken to a vet immediately.

People should remain out of the waterways until the warnings have been lifted.

Environment Canterbury is monitoring the sites and the public will be advised of any changes in water quality.

Facts about cyanobacteria:

  • Appears as dark brown/black mats attached to rocks along the riverbed
  • The algae occur naturally but can increase rapidly during warmer months
  • It often has a strong musty smell and algal toxin concentrations can vary over short periods with changing environmental conditions
  • Although high river levels will remove the algal bloom, detached mats can accumulate along the shore and increase the risk of exposure to toxins
  • If a health warning is in place avoid contact with the water
  • Although district or city councils may place warning signs, these may not be seen at the numerous river access points, hence the need for people/ dog-walkers to treat every low-flowing river cautiously.

For further information visit River warnings for toxic algae or contact Community and Public Health on (03) 364 1777.

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Selwyn Manning, BCS (Hons.) MCS (Hons.) is an investigative political journalist with 23 years media experience. He specializes in reportage and analysis of socioeconomics, politics, foreign affairs, and security/intelligence issues.
Selwyn has extensive experience as a commentator and has provided live political analysis to a wide range of television and radio organizations broadcasting in New Zealand, Australia and globally including the BBC (Five Live, London) and BBC (World Service). He is currently a correspondent to Australia’s FiveAA radio, and is a regular live-on-air panelist on Radio New Zealand’s The Panel with broadcaster Jim Mora.

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