Hutt River toxic algae returns

KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 15:39 29/11/2012

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Toxic algae that can be deadly to dogs has flared up again in the Hutt River.

Greater Wellington regional council and Regional Public Health are urging river users to protect themselves and their pets after detecting an increase of algal growth in the river this week.

The river has been plagued with toxic algae since 2005, and 11 dogs have died from eating it.

Toxic algae - or cyanobacteria - forms brown or black clumps in rivers and the river's edge.

Dogs that eat it can die very quickly, and contact with toxic algae can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and skin irritations in humans.

The regional council monitors rivers weekly and found increased coverage of toxic algae at  Birchville, Maoribank and Silverstream.

People should avoid touching water or swimming in affected areas, and dogs should be stopped from scavenging at the water's edge.

The Hutt and Upper Hutt city councils are erecting warning signs at key access points to the river.

The regional council's senior environmental scientist Summer Greenfield said toxic algae occurred naturally in many New Zealand waters.

''Toxic algae can be present in rivers where the water quality is good. However, there's often an increase in toxic algae during summer because it's warmer, river flows and levels are usually lower, and there's less frequent rain to flush the algae away.''

The conditions were likely to continue, with below average rainfall forecast for the next few months, she said.

Protecting yourself and your pet:

  • Toxic algae forms brown and black clumps at the river's edge or in parts of the river where rocks are exposed or it is shallow.
  • If you see a warning sign or think you see toxic algae avoid touching or swimming near it. Put your dog on a lead and move away from the river's edge.
  • If your dog has eaten toxic algae take it to a vet immediately.
  • If you are concerned about symptoms following contact with toxic algae contact a doctor.

Contact Katie Chapman
Wellington reporter
Email: katie.chapman@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @katiechapman28

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