Toi Te Ora Public Health is reminding recreational water users in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes districts to be aware of the quality of water before using waterways over the Easter weekend.
“While the water quality is good at many local estuaries, beaches, rivers and lakes, it’s important to know when it’s not safe to help reduce the risk of you and your whānau getting sick,” says Dr Jim Miller, Medical Officer of Health at Toi Te Ora.
“As we head into the Easter weekend and the school holidays, it's a good idea to check the quality of the water before engaging in water-based recreational activities,” Dr Miller says.
High levels of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, can be toxic and harmful to health, says Dr Miller. “If the water looks discoloured, smells unusual, or if there is scum or leathery mats of black or brown algae on the surface of lakes or on the beds of rivers, it’s best not to enter the water or eat shellfish from the area.”
Contact with algal blooms can cause asthma and hayfever attacks in some individuals, as well as skin rashes, stomach upsets, and in some cases neurological effects such as tingling around the mouth, headaches, breathing difficulties and visual problems.
“Algal mats and scum may also accumulate along the shoreline of the lake and so it’s especially important that parents ensure that children avoid contact with these as they may be toxic,” says Dr Miller.
Dogs are particularly at risk and should also be kept away from the shoreline. Elsewhere in New Zealand there have been reported deaths of dogs that have eaten algae on shorelines.
Currently, there are temporary health warnings in place due to algal blooms for Lake Rotorua, Ohau Channel, Okawa Bay at Lake Rotoiti, the Okere Arm at Lake Rotoiti, Te Weta Bay at Lake Rotoiti, Lake Maraetai, Lake Rotoehu, Lake Okaro, the upper Kaituna River, and at Waitangi on the Kaituna River.
The health warning for Kopurererua Stream in Tauranga that was issued due to high levels of E.coli has been lifted.
Current local health warnings and recreational water information can be found through these channels:
- Toi Te Ora Public Health website – toiteora.govt.nz/health-warnings
- LAWA website: lawa.org.nz/explore-data/swimming
- Bay of Plenty Regional Council website - boprc.govt.nz/our-region-and-environment/water/swimming-water-quality/
- Waikato Regional Council website - waikatoregion.govt.nz/environment/natural-resources/water/rivers/water-quality-monitoring-map
- Signage at locations