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Red alert for blue-green algae

Tuesday, 22nd January, 2013

A high level alert warning has been issued after blue-green algae was found in the Darling River, upstream of Wilcannia.

The bloom was found near Atley, about 20 kilometres from the town. The "red level" warning indicates that water is unsuitable for recreational use and may pose a threat to livestock.

Landholders should also avoid contact with the raw water supply, said The Far West Regional Algal Coordinating Committee (RACC).

The species of blue-green algae identified were potentially toxic and may cause gastroenteritis in humans if consumed, and skin and eye irritations after contact, it said.

Boiling the water does not kill the toxins.

"People are advised not to enter the water, and are further advised not to drink untreated water or bathe in water drawn from the river whilst this red level warning is in place," the RACC said.

"Wilcannia's town water supply remains safe as Central Darling Shire Council has commenced treating the water with Powdered Activated Carbon is using alternative water supplies."

There was also evidence that small quantities of algal toxins may enter fish flesh when a bloom produces toxins. Any fish caught in water affected by a bloom should be cleaned and washed thoroughly in uncontaminated water and any internal organs disposed of before consumption, the RACC said.

People also should not eat mussels or yabbies from red alert areas.

The red level warning will remain in place until such time as the Far West RACC advises otherwise.

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