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Testing shows significant number of streams in SE states have algae toxins

According to a recent study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, a certain type of algae may be producing toxic byproducts in as much as 39 percent of the 75 streams tested in Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia. The research supports prior findings that 74 percent of streams assessed in the southeastern United States contained a blue-green algae which can produce the specific form of bacteria that manufactures harmful toxins.

The toxins produced by the algae can have adverse effects in humans such as nausea, dermatitis, and liver failure in particularly bad cases, but they can also negatively impact livestock and wildlife populations, affecting local ecosystems. Apparently, scientists and public health officials have expressed concern that the effects of the algae are becoming more widespread. 

Research continues to be conducted on growth of the harmful algae, and as the problem comes to be better understood, effective responses will have to be developed to curb the spread of the algae. According to the Georgia Coastal Health District, the blue-green—while not harmful in itself—can produce harmful toxins form when the temperature, light and water nutrient content of a body of water is favorable. Agricultural runoff can play a role in the development of blue-green algae.

Those who live near bodies of water prone to blue-green algae blooms should be aware of what to look for and how to deal with unintended exposure to potentially harmful algae. When a problem area is identified, it is then possible to work toward a solution. In our next post, we will look at the topic of developing a watershed plan as a means of addressing blue-green algae problems.

Sources:, “Toxins Found in 39% of U.S. Southeastern Streams,” Feb. 21, 2016.

Georgia Coastal Health District, “Frequently Asked Questions About Blue-Green Algae (Cyanobacteria) and Their Toxins,” Accessed Feb. 23, 2016. 

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