Toxic algae confirmed in Willamette River - KPTV - FOX 12

Toxic algae confirmed in Willamette River, health advisory expanded

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Toxic algae has been confirmed in the Willamette River.

An advisory was first issued Tuesday by the Oregon Health Authority after a green film was spotted on the river's surface from the southern end of Ross Island to the Fremont Bridge north of downtown.

On Friday, the OHA reported that preliminary test results show the algae is a toxic blue-green species.

The health advisory has now been extended from Ross Island to the south end of Sauvie Island.

"I saw on the way down here a no swim advisory, so I was discussing that with my son.  It's too bad - it's a beautiful river but I won't try it just because I saw the sign," Patrick Symmes said.

Public health officials recommend that people avoid all contact with Willamette River water in this stretch of the river, and that pets be kept away from the water as well.

However, many people along the river told Fox 12 they'd get in the water despite the warnings.

"I just like swimming in the water and I generally don't think it's true when people say it's unhealthy," Shelby Menzel said.  "I'm not drinking it and I think it's probably all right."

"I figure it's not the safest water to be in, but I figure a few times a year it's not going to kill me," Geoffrey Ticker added.

An alert will be sent out when the threat no longer exists, pending continuous testing of water samples.

No public drinking water systems draw water from the portion of the Willamette River affected by the health advisory.

According to samples tested from the river, the species of blue-green algae is known as microcystis aeruginosa.

The advisory threshold for microcystis is 40,000 cells of the toxin per milliliter of water. Preliminary counts indicate microcystis is present in the Willamette River at 2.25 million cells per milliliter.

Several samples were collected around Ross Island, but the specific sample used for this count was from the mouth of the Ross Island lagoon.

Symptoms of consuming the water containing the toxins include numbness, tingling, dizziness, weakness, diarrhea, nausea, cramps and fainting.

Inhalation of water droplets can lead to breathing problems, sneezing, coughing or a runny nose.

Skin contact can cause irritation, including a rash. Symptoms usually occur in less than 24 hours.  Toxic algae can be especially harmful for children and pets. Dogs can die within an hour of exposure.

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