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Sonoma County Gazette
Lagoon with blue green algea.
As the summer season progresses, advisory signs will be posted in other freshwater recreational areas and remind the community to heed the advisory message if they see these signs. Image: Lagoon with blue green algea -

Recreational Water Users Urged to Be Vigilant About Harmful Algae Blooms

Jun 27, 2020


Blue-Green Algae Caution Signs Posted at Salmon Creek Lagoon in Bodega Bay

Now that Summer is here and recreation on the local waterways is increasing, the Sonoma County Department of Health Services (DHS) and the State Water Resources Control Board request the public be mindful of freshwater harmful algal blooms (HABs) in rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. Recreating in waterways contaminated with HABs can cause illness, and is especially harmful to children and pets.

Out of an abundance of caution, Friday morning (June 26th) Caution Advisory signs for HABs were posted along the Salmon Creek lagoon in Bodega Bay. The Caution Advisory recommendations include staying away from algae and scum in the water, preventing pets and other animals from going into the water, and keeping children away from algae in the water or accumulated along the shore. As the summer season progresses, we anticipate posting advisory signs in other freshwater recreational areas and remind the public to heed the advisory message if they see these signs. 

About HABs and Blue-Green Algae

Cyanobacteria in lab. Image: HABs are formed by cyanobacteria, also called blue-green algae (BGA), which are small microbes that live in nearly every habitat on land and in the water. Increased water temperatures, slow moving water, and excessive nutrients cause BGA to multiply and form these harmful blooms.

It is important to distinguish BGA from other algae and non-toxic water plants that are not thought to pose hazards to health.  Harmful blooms can develop thick paint-like floating scums on the water’s surface, form mats on the bottom of a waterbody, accumulate along shorelines, or even look like small particles floating at various depths. The harmful blooms can be in a variety of colors such as green, white, red or brown.

Just touching the water or playing in sand next to an algae-filled lake could cause coughing, rashes and itching in children. (The Environmental Working Group)

Who is most at risk?

White German Shepherd swimming in algae, dogs have been known to die from exposure.Photo by Ildar Sagdejev-flickr-CC BY-SA 4.0BGA and the toxins they can produce have the potential to harm the environment, people, pets, wildlife or livestock. Dogs and children are most likely to be affected because of their smaller body size, increased potential to swallow water while swimming and tendency to stay in the water longer. Recreational exposure to BGA and associated toxins can cause eye irritation, skin rash, mouth ulcers, vomiting, diarrhea and cold and flu-like symptoms.

Dogs are susceptible because they tend to drink while in the water and lick their fur afterward, increasing their risk of exposure and illness. Symptoms with animals include vomiting or diarrhea, lethargy, abnormal liver function test results, difficulty breathing, foaming at the mouth, seizures and sometimes death.

If you r dog swims or drinks blue-green-algae infected water:>

Remember these tips to be safe

DHS and the California Water Boards recommend that people practice healthy water habits while enjoying the outdoors this summer at your local lake, river or stream:

 •  Heed all instructions on posted advisories if present

 •  Avoid algae and scum in the water and on the shore

 •  Keep an eye on children and pets

 •  If you think a HAB is present, do not let pets and other animals go into or drink the water or eat scum/algal accumulations on the shore

 •  Don’t drink the water or use it for cooking

 •  Wash yourself, your family and your pets with clean water after water play

 •  If you catch fish, throw away guts and clean fillets with tap water or bottled water before cooking

 •  Avoid eating shellfish if you think a HAB is present

Get medical treatment immediately if you think that you, your pet, or livestock has gotten sick after going in the water. Be sure to alert the medical professional to the possible contact with BGA. Also, make sure to contact DHS Environmental Health at (707) 565-6565.

To report a bloom, do one of the following:

 •  Contact DHS Environmental Health by phone at   (707) 565-6565   or email at. 

 •  Submit a Bloom Report form on the State Water Boards reporting system at:

For more information, please visit the DHS Environmental Health webpage for BGA at  

Anyone can track where HABs are located statewide, by visiting the State Water Boards portal map: 

The HAB Incident Reports Map

Click on image to open the HAB Incident Reports MapThe HAB Incident Reports Map is maintained by the State Water Resources Control Board. This map and corresponding table only show locations where harmful algal blooms (HABs) have been voluntarily reported. Colored dots on the map represent reported locations with pop-up windows providing additional details for each HAB report. Dots are symbolized based on the current advisory status and the time since the report was last verified by staff (refer to map legends for details). These details are also available in the adjacent table sorted by county.


(Wait a few seconds for map to show on page)

Several routine monitoring programs exist for some locations (Klamath Basin, East Bay Regional Parks,  SWAMP LogoClear Lake, and reservoirs along State Water Project), which share monitoring data to present in this map. Practicing Healthy Water Habits is recommended even for waterbodies not included below. Where noted, recommended advisories and corresponding signage are based on California voluntary guidelines for recreational waters. For questions please contact the HAB Hotline by email ( ) or phone (1-800-222-1222).



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