Advisory issued for toxic algae at Cathedral Park

Published: Aug. 19, 2022 at 2:29 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - If you walk your pets near Cathedral Park, you may want to keep them away from the Willamette River for the time being.

The Oregon Health Authority issued a health advisory for toxic algae, also known as blue-green algae, for this area of river through north Portland on Wednesday.

A cyanobacteria bloom, which tends to appear when the weather is sunny and water is warm and calm, produces potentially dangerous cyanotoxin levels.

RELATED: Public Health issues toxin warning for Round Lake

Portland local Randy Schlesinger and his dog head to the water every day, he said. But now those plans are ruined.

“Startled and disappointed to say the least,” Schlesinger said. “We come out here to play and run around and cool off and get in the water especially when it gets hot and humid like this. When we go to the beach [my dog] likes to swim in and paddle in on the waves like he’s surfing.”

Health officials said people should avoid swimming and activities that spray water, such as water skiing and power boating, to avoid ingesting any water. While these toxins are not absorbed through the skin, people with skin sensitivities may get a puffy red rash. Dogs can be exposed by licking wet fur, drinking the water, or eating along the shore. Once exposed, they can get sick and die within hours.

Aidan, aged 12, said it was “kind of sad” that he can’t play in the water now.

“I was kind of counting on playing in the water,” Aidan said.

His mother Alisha agreed.

“I’m kind of surprised because we are we supposed to play at now?” Alisha said. “This is a beloved spot for all of us.”

Health officials said they were still collecting water samples to better determine the level and area of danger to humans and animals.

“People should be aware that the bloom and associated toxins may have originated upstream and spread downstream beyond the area around Cathedral Park,” officials said. “Keep an eye out for visible signs of bloom in other areas of the river and stay out of the water in locations with visible scum.”

People are still encouraged to visit the river and enjoy activities such as fishing, camping, canoeing and kayaking, but they should be aware that these toxins cannot be removed by boiling, filtering or treating water, according to OHA. Fish caught from the river should have fat, skin and organs should be removed before cooking or freezing, and fillets should be rinsed with clean water.

Health officials said this could last for months or until the weather or even rain can cool the water levels down.

If you or a pet are exposed: