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A fourth Idaho water destination is under public health advisory. The cause is the same

Idaho Statesman - 8/8/2022

After last Friday’s public health advisory for cyanobacteria in Brownlee Reservoir, Southwest District Health issued a similar notice for neighboring Hells Canyon Reservoir on Monday.

A news release from the public health department advised people not to swim or participate in water activities at Hells Canyon Reservoir because of high levels of cyanotoxin-producing bacteria. Exposure to this bacteria can be dangerous to both human and animal health.

Cyanobacteria occur naturally in bodies of water, and warm temperatures can trigger bacterial blooms, Dani Terhaar, a water quality scientist with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, told the Idaho Statesman after last week’s advisory for Brownlee. Both natural and human-caused nutrient run-off can be contributing factors.

Before the most recent advisories for the two big Snake River reservoirs that form part of the Idaho-Oregon state line, algal blooms occurred at Lake Cascade and CJ Strike Reservoir this summer, prompting public health advisories.

Algal blooms may have a foul order and look like mats, foam, spilled paint or surface scum, according to the release.

The release advised people to wash their hands after handling fish from the affected area and to use extra caution if they choose to eat those fish. People should also wash any skin or pet fur that comes into contact with water in the area. Symptoms of cyanotoxin exposure include rashes, hives, diarrhea, vomiting, coughing and wheezing, according to the release. More severe symptoms could include damage to the liver and nervous system.

If a pet seems sick after swimming in an affecting area, seek veterinary care.

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