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20 April 2011

Algal bloom warning for Hunter River near Bremer Bay

The Department of Health is warning people to avoid contact with a blue-green algal bloom that has formed in the Hunter River near Bremer Bay.

Acting Environmental Health Director Richard Theobald said the algae caused a green discoloration and surface scum in the water, and is capable of producing "Microcystin" a harmful algal toxin.

"Contact with the bloom may cause skin irritation possibly leading to severe dermatitis. Ingestion of affected water may also cause severe illness and liver damage," Mr Theobald said.

"Recreational activities such as swimming, water-skiing, jet-skiing, wading, crabbing, shellfish collection and canoeing in these waters should be avoided, particularly where algal scum or discolouration is visible.

"Pets and livestock should also be kept away from the water during the bloom."

Mr Theobald said health warning signs had been placed at the main access points leading into the affected waterway.

Anyone who comes in contact with algal scum should rinse it off with clean water and seek medical attention if they feel unwell.

"As a general rule people should avoid swimming in water that is discoloured or has scum on the surface, and not collect wild shellfish as their safety cannot be guaranteed," Mr Theobald said.

Commercially available shellfish from supermarkets in Western Australia is not affected, as it is managed by a strict quality assurance program to ensure that it was safe for human consumption.

Not all regional recreational waterways are monitored for algal blooms and therefore waterways suspected of algal blooms should be reported to the nearest Department of Environment and Conservation, or Department of Water office or the Local Government Authority for assessment.

Further information regarding algal blooms and recreational water quality can be found at www.public.health.wa.gov.au

The Department of Water will continue to monitor the algal bloom and provide advice to the Department of Health on algal activity levels in this location.

Media contact: (08) 9222 4333

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