Health officials warn people to keep away from toxic algae blooms


AURORA | Hot summer months in Colorado come with a bevy of menaces. Among them: toxic algae blooms, which the state health department says residents should be extra vigilant about right now. 

The algae, also called blue-green algae, is natural to Colorado waters, but it can be deadly, especially for dogs. In people, exposure can cause symptoms such as stomach pain, fever, headache, sore throat and skin irritation. 

“We want everyone to be able to safely enjoy the great outdoors in Colorado,” Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan said in a statement. “We are raising awareness about toxic algae so that people can be sure the waters they and their furry friends are playing in are safe.”

The toxic algae-infested waters often look discolored. Water is generally a green color, but can also be red or green. CDPHE staff say stringy mustard-colored water probably just contains pollen. 

The water may also smell bad, “resemble thick pea soup”, contain foam or scum. Dead fish or other animals may also be spotted nearby.

“If you think an algae bloom might be toxic, keep kids and animals away from the water — when in doubt, stay out,” advised state toxicologist Kristy Richardson.

A new dashboard through CDPHE shows updated information about toxic algae blooms. Testing so far this summer found toxins at Cherry Creek Reservoir, though that bloom has been resolved. 

Excess nutrients in the water, hotter weather and stagnant water make for perfect bloom conditions, though state environmental experts say residents can help prevent toxic waters. They encourage people to pick up pet waste, use less fertilizer, which can end up in the water, and limit the use of de-icers that contain urea. 

While fairly common throughout the state, toxic blooms typically aren’t found in rivers or at high-elevation bodies of water. 


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