Wellington Scoop

Toxic algae levels “very high”; Hutt River dangerous for dogs and humans

News from GWRC
The Toxic algae warning for the Hutt River now extends from Kaitoke Regional Park to the river mouth. Levels are very high and we are warning swimmers to stay out of the river.

Toxic algae is very dangerous for dogs – keep them on leads when near the river.

News from GRWC – November 28
There is a toxic algae warning for Kaitoke Regional Park campground. Algae levels are high.

Keep dogs on a lead away from the river banks and out of the water. Avoid obvious mats of algae (especially any that may have washed up at the river’s edge).

News from GWRC – November 22
River users, particularly those with dogs, should be extra vigilant when visiting the Hutt and Pakuratahi rivers due to increased growth of toxic algae, says Greater Wellington Regional Council, Regional Public Health, Hutt City Council and Upper Hutt City Council.

Monitoring of the Pakuratahi River (at Hutt Forks and Farm Creek) in the popular recreational Kaitoke area shows moderate levels of detached toxic algal mats on the river’s edge. The Hutt River at Silverstream Bridge, Birchville and Melling has elevated levels of toxic algae and small amounts of detached mats washing up on the river’s edge.

Toxic algae, which are brown or black in colour, can kill dogs and other animals rapidly if they ingest it. Toxic algae mats that come loose and wash up on the river’s edge pose the biggest risk to dogs, because as it dries it gives off a strong musty odour which dogs find irresistible. In humans, contact with toxic algae may cause skin irritations and other allergy-type symptoms. “The good news is that the risk from getting sick from the water is incredibly low. Basically, you have to eat it for it to be a problem” says Senior Science Coordinator Penny Fairbrother.

People should avoid touching it and keep a close eye on their dog to ensure it doesn’t eat anything from the river’s edge. If in doubt keep dogs out of the river and on a lead. They should also check the latest updates on our Facebook page and ‘Is it safe to swim?’ website for warnings.

“The downside of recent great weather is that it creates ideal conditions for toxic algal growth in rivers. Limited rainfall and the warm dry conditions have combined to create rapid toxic algal growth earlier than expected. It’s likely that toxic algae could be present to some extent along the entire Hutt River at the moment, so we encourage river users to find out what toxic algae looks like and avoid it”, Greater Wellington Senior Environmental Scientist Dr Mark Heath says.

Upper Hutt City Council and Hutt City Council will be posting information signs at key access points along the river. Monitoring of popular river and beach spots in the region is carried out by the Regional Council and local authorities on a weekly basis over the summer months from 1 December to the end of March. Results of the monitoring and latest warnings are posted on www.gw.govt.nz/is-it-safe-to-swim

Other information about toxic algae, including a video of what to look for and what to do if you are worried about possible contact with toxic algae can be found atwww.gw.govt.nz/toxic-algae-faqs .

Keep you and your dog safe from toxic algae this summer –

• How to spot toxic algae – toxic algae forms black or brown leathery mats on rocks in the river. If these mats become detached they form brown and black clumps at the river’s edge or in parts of the river where rocks are exposed or it’s shallow

• If you find toxic algae – avoid touching it. Keep your dog on a lead and make sure it doesn’t eat anything from the river’s edge

• If you think your dog has eaten toxic algae – take your dog to a vet immediately

• If you are concerned about symptoms following contact with toxic algae – contact your family doctor

News from Kapiti Coast District Council
Kāpiti Coast District Council is advising dog-owners to keep an eye out for toxic algae in the district’s waterways as the temperature rises. That includes lagoons in parks and reserves as well as rivers and streams.

Environmental Standards Manager Jacquie Muir says seasonal changes that occur around this time of year impact on algae levels and it’s likely that we’ll soon see toxic algae in some parts of Kāpiti.

“While it’s early in the season, we’re noticing the water levels dropping and it is possible cyanobacteria, an algae which is toxic to dogs, will appear so we’re taking this opportunity to remind people to be aware of the risks.

“Toxic algae is a naturally occurring process in warm weather and we’re encouraging dog owners to keep a careful eye on water and rock surfaces if their pet is in and around our rivers and streams,” Ms Muir says. “If you suspect toxic algae might be present then keep your dogs out of the water and let us know so we can do additional water testing.”

The Council will maintain its seasonal monitoring program of recreational swimming sites, in partnership with Greater Wellington Regional Council. This happens weekly during the summer months.

Test results from popular river, lagoon and beach locations are available on the Council’s website.