Lakes algae outbreak

AN outbreak of algae in the Gippsland Lakes has prompted authorities to issue a warning to swimmers.

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning regional algae response coordinator Chris Barry said testing showed high levels of the non-toxic algae, Synechoccocus, at Ocean Grange.

“This algae species may cause skin irritation and rashes when in high numbers, and the Department of Health and Human Services recommends standard precautions to avoid contact with affected waters,” he said.

“Signs are in place at Ocean Grange warning people not to come into contact with the water there.”

Mr Barry said testing of the Tambo River at Swan Reach had also detected a new species of algae that had not been seen in the Gippsland Lakes before, a potentially toxic raphidophyte, Fibrocapsa japonica.

“As a precaution, DHHS advised to avoid direct contact with affected water in this area given this species may act as a skin irritant,” he added.

Signs were erected at Swan Reach jetty on February 9, warning people not to come into contact with the water there.

Subsequent testing showed the algae has dissipated, and the signs have been removed.

“Algae can grow quickly in the right conditions and situations can change rapidly,” Mr Barry said.

“As a general rule, it is recommended not to swim in or come into contact with water that has visible algal concentrations or algal scums.

“Don’t swallow large amounts of affected water, wash off any affected water from wetsuits and wash and dry all clothing and equipment after any contact with algal scum or murky water.

“If you experience any health effects, whatever the nature of your exposure, you should seek prompt medical advice.

“The current situation indicates algae levels of concern only at Ocean Grange — there are plenty of places to swim and enjoy water sports across the Gippsland Lakes,” Mr Barry said.

“Our regular broad scale water sampling will continue across the lakes system to determine the types, amount and extent of algae present.

“If these species of algae are found at more sites, or there are other algae of concern, the public will be informed and signs will be put up to warn people not to come into contact with the water.”

Algae are a naturally occurring organism and present in all waterways.

The Gippsland Lakes contain many different types of algae at varying levels as part of the natural environment and balance of the lakes system.

Mr Barry said regular monitoring and analysis of algae in the lakes was undertaken throughout the year.

In summer it is done weekly, and more frequently if necessary.

Gippsland Senior
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