Health Dept. Urges Caution on River
Boaters, swimmers told to beware algae
21 August 2015
WHEELING - Residents who plan to boat, ski or swim in the Ohio
River this weekend are urged to use caution after blue-green algae
was found in water samples taken this week.
According to officials with the Wheeling-Ohio County Health
Department and city of Wheeling, water testing on Wednesday at
Pike Island Lock and Dam showed elevated levels of blue-green
algae. The algae, at high concentrations, can cause health
problems such as skin irritation, eye irritation or intestinal
Health department and water treatment plant officials are urging
residents to use caution when swimming, boating, fishing or doing
other recreational water activities in the Ohio River this
Public drinking water supplied from the Wheeling Water Department,
including the Ohio County Public Service District, is being
"People can be exposed to the blue-green algae in two ways -
either by contact with the skin or by swallowing it," said Howard
Gamble with the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department. "The basic
message for this weekend is, if you see blue-green algae floating
in the river, avoid swimming, jet skiing or any other water
activity where you might come into contact with it."
Anyone experiencing symptoms related to exposure to blue-green
algae, including stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, headache,
fever, muscle weakness or difficulty breathing, should contact
their health care provider, particularly if they have been in
contact with Ohio River water.
Other tips to avoid becoming ill from contact with blue-green
Blue-green algae, also known as Cyanobacteria, are a group of
photosynthetic bacteria that many people refer to as "pond scum."
It is most often blue-green in color, but can also be blue, green,
reddish-purple or brown. Blue-green algae generally grow in lakes,
ponds and slow-moving streams when the water is warm and enriched
with nutrients like phosphorus or nitrogen. In certain conditions,
blue-green algae can grow very quickly in number. Most species are
buoyant and will float to the surface, where they form scum layers
or floating mats.
Algae blooms can be the result of agricultural fertilizer runoff,
sewage overflows and other pollution issues. Some factors that can
contribute to algae blooms include sunlight; low-water or low-flow
conditions; calm water; warmer temperatures; and excess nutrients
(phosphorus or nitrogen). The primary sources of nutrient
pollution are runoff of fertilizers, animal manure, sewage
treatment plant discharges, storm water runoff, car and power
plant emissions and failing septic tanks.
For more information, call the Wheeling Ohio County Health
Department at 304-234-3682 or the Wheeling Water Treatment Plant