Potentially toxic algae lead to health risk in Blacksburg pond

Harmful Algal Bloom
Harmful Algal Bloom(Virginia Department of Health)
Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 11:59 AM EDT
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ/VDH Release) - Potentially toxic bacteria have formed a “harmful algal bloom” in Pandapas Pond in Blacksburg, according to the Virginia Department of Health and New River Health District (NRHD).

NRHD says this type of blue-green algae may produce a toxin that can cause rashes and other illnesses, and warns people to stay out of the water, and to keep their pets out. Due to relatively low body weight, says NRHD, children and pets are at greater risk of severe illness if they ingest the water. Pets also can get sick if they get wet and then lick their fur.

Harmful algal bloom occurs when warm water and nutrients combine to create favorable growing conditions for algae, according to NRHD:

They can become so dense that they turn the water green or bluish-green and form scummy clumps or glops on the water surface which look like paint. Activities that may result in accidental ingestion, such as swimming, pose the greatest health due to the potential for this algae to produce toxins. Some activities such as kayaking, canoeing, and fishing may continue with proper caution to avoid water contact.

“The Department of Environmental Quality will conduct follow-up sampling in September to check on the status of the bloom,” said Gary Coggins, environmental health manager senior, New River Health District. “We also are working with the U.S. Forest Service to coordinate announcements, post signs, and to inform visitors of the bloom so they may take care to avoid contact with the water.”

To report algal blooms, submit via the Online HAB Report Form. If you suspect you have experienced an algae-related health effect, report your illness to the Harmful Algal Bloom Hotline at 888-238-6154. For more information or to see where other algae advisories have been issued, visit

To prevent illness, VDH urges people to follow these water habits:

· Never allow people or pets to drink untreated water.

· Avoid contact with any waterbody with discolored water, water that smells bad, or has an advisory sign.

· Keep children and pets out of advisory areas. If contact with bloom water cannot be avoided, quickly wash skin or fur with plenty of clean fresh water.

· If you experience symptoms after swimming in or near an algal bloom, seek medical care and let the provider know about your exposure to the bloom water.

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