Blue-Green Algae Blooms Observed in Mississquoi Bay

For Immediate Release: July 29, 2004

Contact: Bill Bress
State Toxicologist
Vermont Department of Health
802-863-7220

BURLINGTON - The Vermont Department of Health has declared an alert for Mississquoi Bay , due to the presence of a blue-green algae bloom in bay waters. Mississquoi Bay has experienced blue-green algae blooms on the Quebec side of the bay this summer, and the blooms recently extended across the border to the Vermont side.

The Department of Health has taken samples of bay water this week, and test results will be available by week’s end.

Bill Bress, State Toxicologist for the Vermont Department of Health warns, “People should avoid swimming in areas where there is visible green or blue-green scum collected on the surface of the water. They also should not drink or shower with water that is piped directly from the bay to their home or camp, if a green or blue-green scum is present”

Toxin levels in a water bodies tend to be higher near the shoreline and at the surface of the water where animal and human contact is most likely. Common purification methods such as boiling, ultraviolet light and chlorination will not destroy the toxins formed in the blooms.

Ingestion (drinking) of algae that are producing toxin can result in symptoms including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Skin exposure can result in irritation or allergic reactions. Children should especially be kept from entering scummy water since they are more likely to ingest the water than adults.

Dogs are at risk if they eat the algae or drink the water in an area where a toxic algae bloom is taking place. They may also ingest the algae by licking their fur after they have been in water that is thick with algae.

Generally, lots of wind, cooler weather, rainfall, and cloudy days will lead to the collapse of an algae bloom. Some blooms die off after a few days or weeks, while others persist for a few months.

The algae alert system was developed by the University of Vermont in conjunction with the Health Department. The UVM Rubenstein Science Laboratory samples lake water on a regular basis until toxin producing algae are found. The amount found in samples determines the alert level.