California Regional Water Quality Control Board
North Coast Region
5550 Skylane Boulevard, Suite A
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Blue-green algae blooms in Klamath River and Reservoirs
result in warning against water contact or use
News Release: July 31, 2014 Contact: Clayton Creager: (707) 576-2666
Sacramento –Swimmers, boaters and recreational users are to urged to avoid direct contact
with or use of waters containing blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), now blooming in the
Klamath River in Northern California.
Copco and Iron Gate Reservoirs and the Klamath River below Iron Gate Dam down to
Weitchpec on the Yurok Reservation are now posted with health advisories warning against
human and animal contact with the water. Residents and recreational water users can still
enjoy camping, hiking, biking, canoeing, picnicking, or other recreational activities at the
reservoirs and along the Klamath River, taking precautions to avoid contact with waters near
these bloom areas and any scums along the water’s edge.
Klamath River reaches from the I-5 bridge downstream to Weitchpec were posted with health
advisories on July 30 and 31, based on the presence of cyanobacteria scums. Copco
Reservoir was posted in June due to cell counts exceeding public health thresholds for
cyanobacteria (Anabaena and then Microcystis aeruginosa). Iron Gate was posted on July
25th due to scums as public health thresholds; these advisories remain in effect.
“These conditions in the Klamath River and reservoirs today are very concerning. Blue-green
algae can pose health risks, particularly to children and pets,” said Matt St. John, Executive
Officer of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. “We urge people and their
pets to avoid contact with water in locations with blooms, and particularly avoid swallowing or
inhaling of water spray in an algal bloom area.”
The algal blooms appear as bright green in the water, and blue-green, white or brown foam,
scum or mats can float on the water and accumulate along the shore. Recreational exposure
to toxic blue-green algae can cause eye irritation, allergic skin rash, mouth ulcer, vomiting,
diarrhea, and cold and flu-like symptoms. Liver failure, nerve damage and death have occurred
in rare situations where large amounts of contaminated water were directly ingested.diarrhea,
and cold and flu-like symptoms. Liver failure, nerve damage and death have occurred in rare
situations where large amounts of contaminated water were directly ingested.
The Statewide Guidance on Harmful Algal Blooms recommends the following for blue-green
algae impacted waters:
Take care that pets and livestock do not drink the water, swim through algae, scums or
mats, or lick their fur after going in the water. Rinse pets in clean drinking water to
remove algae from fur.
Avoid wading, swimming or jet or water skiing in water containing algae blooms or
scums or mats.
Do not drink, cook or wash dishes with untreated surface water from these areas under
any circumstances; common water purification techniques (e.g., camping filters, tablets
and boiling) do not remove toxins.
People should not eat mussels or other bivalves collected from these areas. Limit or
avoid eating fish; if fish are consumed, remove guts and liver, and rinse filets in clean
Get medical treatment immediately if you think that you, your pet, or livestock might
have been poisoned by blue-green algae toxins. Be sure to alert the medical
professional to the possible contact with blue-green algae.
Water quality monitoring is done biweekly in the summer from Link River Dam in Oregon to the
Klamath River estuary in California. Sampling continues late into the fall to determine when
toxin levels are low enough for water contact to be safely below the public health thresholds.
This sampling is conducted collaboratively by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation; PacifiCorp; the
Karuk Tribe; the Yurok Tribe the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board and U.S.
EPA. These postings are supported by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board,
the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), Department of Public
Health, as well as the U.S. EPA, and the Yurok and Karuk Tribes.