THE dangerous blue-green algæ is at present prominent at Hatton on the Grand Union Canal, and it should be avoided at all costs.
British Waterways have issued a warning for people to avoid contact with the water, in two sections between Olton and Hatton, and to keep animals away from the waterway.
Blue-green algæ occurs naturally in many inland fresh waters. Occasionally, the numbers of blue-green algæ become excessive, resulting in a ‘bloom' which can colour the water green, blue-green or greenish brown. Sometimes algal blooms cause paint-like or jelly-like scums.
Some blue-green algæ are capable of producing toxins, but not all, and it is not possible to tell from its appearance whether a bloom or scum is harmful.
Due to the uncertainty surrounding the toxicity of blue-green algal blooms, British Waterways is taking the precaution of encouraging canal and towpath users, their children and pets to avoid contact with the water. Direct contact with the algæ may cause allergic reactions including itchy eyes, skin irritation and hay fever like symptoms.
Open for visitors
Peter Birch Environment Manager for British Waterways explained:
"The canal is still very much open for visitors, and we're issuing this advice purely as a precaution as the majority of visitors wouldn't come into contact with the canal water anyway.
"If members of the public do come into contact with blue-green algæ affected water, they should remove all contaminated clothing and wash all exposed skin with clean water as soon as possible, and particularly before eating or drinking. If they are in any doubt about their welfare after contact with algæ, they should seek medical advice. Farmers and pet owners should ensure that their animals do not have access to affected water".
Though boaters are not mentioned, it is obvious that they should take the same precautions.