BLUE-green algae alert levels at Rathluba lagoon have increased, according to the most recent sampling of the Maitland waterway.
Maitland City Council on Friday announced the level had risen at Rathluba, matching the maintained high alerts at Telarah lagoon and Walka Water Works.
High levels of nutrients, low dam levels and recent high temperatures have encouraged the growth of blue-green algae, which often manifests as a paint-like scum on the water and has a distinct earthy smell.
The council said that all dams and waterways have the potential to have algal blooms emerge overnight with those conditions and caution should be exercised.
“Once a bloom has developed, there isn’t a great deal authorities can do to reverse the situation except wait for a climatic change,” Maitland City Council manager development and environment David Simm said.
“Blue-green algae can be a serious environmental and human health problem, with the release of toxins and skin irritants. Domestic pets and livestock should also be prevented from coming into contact with the water’.
The increased alert level at Rathluba comes after concerns emerged that a broken aerator at Walka would not be repaired as the council was reluctant to disturb the algae in the dam. That decision was slammed by councillor and Walka Waterworks Advisory Committee member Donald Ferris, who said the device was installed specifically to improve water quality.
Without repairs, he said a string of hot temperatures could result in “a fish kill or other such event”.
The council’s community and recreation manager, Laurie D’Angelo, said repairs had been investigated.
“Due to the issues with the water quality at the site, in particular the algae that is present in the damn, Council will not be repairing the aerator as it does not have a significant effect on the improvement of the water quality,” she said. “Council does not want the algae to be disturbed or airborne as this can have an impact on people who suffer from asthma.”
Boiling water does not diminish the level of toxins produced by blue-green algae. If people believe they or their animals have been affected by blue-green algae they should seek medical attention.
The council advises washing cars on the grass, using brooms rather than hoses to shift leaves, regularly cleaning gutters and applying fertiliser responsibly.
For bloom updates call 1800 999 457.