REPORT: Sounding the Toxic Algae Alarm
Swallowing or swimming in water during a dangerous bloom can produce skin rashes, liver injury and neurological changes. Toxic algae metabolites can also harm or kill pets and livestock.
The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality confirmed the presence of potentially harmful cyanobacteria algae 19 times across North Carolina during the summer of 2016 alone.
How many potentially harmful blooms occurred in North Carolina in 2016 is unknown. State officials did detect cyanobacteria toxins called microcystin at five locations: Pamlico Sound, Albemarle Sound, a Brunswick County storm water pond, a Davie County pond and Greenfield Lake in New Hanover County, said Cobey Culton, a state Department of Health and Human Services spokesman.
The same uncertainty exists nationally. Blooms occur unpredictably and are not always documented, never mind assessed for their full chemical content.