Algal bloom warning issued for Ohio River above Louisville

The state Division of Water and Department for Public Health are warning people not to swim, wade or ski in the Ohio River from the McAlpine Dam at Louisville upstream to the Greenup Dam because several sections of the river have toxic algal blooms.

“Water ingested during recreational activities in this area may increase the risk of gastrointestinal symptoms such as stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea,” the warning says. “Skin, eye, and throat irritation and/or breathing difficulties, skin rashes, as well as numbness or tingling of limbs may also occur after contact.”

The state said toxins in the Cincinnati area “were well above the advisory threshold. Toxin-producing blooms that exceeded the advisory threshold were also identified on the Ohio River near Dover, and near Towhead Island in Louisville — and additionally at Briggs Lake in Logan County,” which was also included in the warning.

“Bloom conditions can change rapidly,” the state advises, giving tips to avoid exposure to harmful algal blooms (HABs):
• Avoid direct contact, including swimming, wading, paddling, diving, and water skiing, with affected water that has a visible bloom, unusual color, or algal scum.
• People who are prone to respiratory allergies or asthma should avoid areas with HABs. Children may be particularly at risk.
• If contact has been made with water containing blue-green algae, wash off with fresh water. In some cases, skin irritation will appear after prolonged exposure. If symptoms persist, consult your health care provider.
• If fishing in affected waters, fish fillets (not internal organs) may be consumed after the fillets have been rinsed in clean, potable water.
• Prevent pets and livestock from coming into contact with water where HABs are apparent.

If you are concerned that you have symptoms that are a result of exposure to HABs, please see your doctor and call your local health department. For additional information about harmful algal blooms in Kentucky, visit the Division of Water’s HAB webage.

“Blue-green algae occur naturally in the environment and are a vital part of the ecosystem,” the state says. “Harmful algal blooms arise when there are excess nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen), sunny conditions, warm temperatures, and low-flow or low-water conditions. The more typical green algae, which do not produce toxins, come in many forms.

“Harmful algal blooms, on the other hand, appear as slicks of opaque, bright-green paint, but closer inspection often reveals the grainy, sawdust-like appearance of individual colonies. The color of the algae may also appear red or brown.”