Toxic algae warning

by Ann van Engelen

Canterbury District Health Board’s Community and Public Health Unit has issued a health warning after potentially toxic blue-green algae (benthic cyanobacteria) were found in Selwyn/Waikirikiri River, downstream of the Whitecliffs Domain near the picnic area.

People and animals, particularly dogs, should avoid the area of the Selwyn/Waikirikiri River downstream of the Whitecliffs Domain near the picnic area until the health warning has been lifted. There are also other access points along the Selwyn/Waikirikiri River that may have cyanobacteria present. People are advised to check for the presence of cyanobacteria and avoid contact.

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

“Exposure may cause skin rashes, nausea, stomach cramps, tingling and numbness around the mouth and fingertips. If you experience any of these symptoms, visit your doctor immediately, also let your doctor know if you have had contact with dark brown/black algal mats or water in this area.”

The Selwyn District Council as the drinking water supplier is following agreed procedures and monitoring their nearby drinking water intakes.

“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. Pets should be taken to a vet immediately if they are showing signs of illness after coming into contact with algal mats.”

People and animals 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.

For further information visit Environment Canterbury — Swimming Water Quality.