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Social Distancing Protocols Could Mean Less Monitoring For Algae Blooms

Oregon Health Authority

The Oregon Health Authority says the need for social distancing in the workplace will mean less monitoring this summer for harmful algae blooms.

Cyanotoxins can cause serious illness for people or animals that ingest them. The algae blooms that support their growth love warmer water, so it’s more of a concern during the summer, especially since people tend to be in and around bodies of water more when the weather warms up.

This year, the Oregon Health Authority says fewer of the state’s freshwater recreation sites will be tested for cyanobacteria. OHA natural resource specialist Rebecca Hillwig said that’s because COVID-19 safety protocols mean testers will head out in the field by themselves instead of in teams. “Something that would take two people, say, a few hours or a half-day takes one person several hours or an entire day,” she said. 

Hillwig says if you see water that’s foamy, scummy or an odd color, then steer clear, just to be on the safe side.

The state monitoring is separate from the testing that occurs for municipal water sources.

A rise in cyanatoxin levels in Salem’s water in 2018 caused the city to temporarily advise vulnerable populations to avoid drinking tap water. The city has since implemented additional protections against harmful bacteria.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December 2018 and became News Director in March 2023. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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