DON’T SWIM: Red alert for blue-green algae in waterway

THE highest alert level - red alert - has been issued after blue-green algae was detected in the Richmond River near Jabour Weir.

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Richmond Valley Council has increased its water treatment efforts after the algae was detected this week.

The council's general manager Vaughan Macdonald said hot and dry conditions contributed to the situation.

Casino's water supply is drawn from the Richmond River and Mr Macdonald said the issue was "a serious concern".

The algal bloom comes as the council is considering whether water restrictions will need to be put in place, just two days into summer.

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"Hopefully, we will receive some rain soon," Mr Macdonald said.

"But in the meantime Council is strongly encouraging residents to be mindful of their water usage and help reduce the strain on the town's water supply.

"We have been working closely with NSW Health to monitor the situation and ensure the town's drinking water is safe," he said.

"This includes introducing extra water treatment processes, such as higher dosing with manganese, a naturally occurring mineral which helps to remove the blue-green algae from the water and ensures it is safe to drink.

"While customers may notice some discolouration and a faint odour in the water, due to the extra manganese, the important thing is to address the algae issue and the potential health risk it can present."

He said the council issued a serious warning to residents following advice from NSW Health.

This warning has urged residents not to swim in, or have direct contact with, the river.

Pets should also be prevented from swimming in or drinking the untreated water.

"This is the highest level warning - red alert - so we need to take it seriously and listen to the advice from health experts," he said.

Children and people with pre-existing health conditions, such as asthma, are most at risk, but everyone should avoid swimming in the river water, as contact with the algae can lead to skin, eye and ear irritations.

Dogs are also susceptible as they can ingest algae by licking their coats after swimming. People who fish in the river should be careful to thoroughly wash the fish they catch in clean, treated water.

Blue-green algae has also been known to cause serious illness in livestock, so owners should carefully check stock water supplies for signs of the algae and remove stock from waterways where surface scum is visible, or blue-green algae is suspected.

Warning signs have been erected as several locations and the council will continue to test the water regularly, Mr Macdonald said.

"We are hoping that predicted rain will help to ease the situation, but at the moment river levels are low, high temperatures are increasing algal growth and we need to take precautions," he said.

"If there is any change in the situation, we will let the community know through local and social media updates."



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