Media release

Cyanobacteria found in Lake Waihola

Wednesday 11 January 2017

Sampling carried out by the Otago Regional Council has shown high concentrations of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) at Lake Waihola and a health warning has been issued for the lake.

Visitors are advised not to use it for recreational purposes and observe warning signs until the warning has been lifted, while dog owners are also being warned to avoid allowing their pets swim in the lake until then as well.

Lake Waihola has a history of cyanobacteria being present, however the last time it was present in volumes requiring ORC intervention was three years ago.

Cyanobacteria can produce toxins that are harmful to humans and animals if swallowed or through contact with skin (such as may occur when swimming, water skiing or kayaking). Exposure to cyanobacteria may cause symptoms such as skin rashes, nausea, tummy upset, and tingling and numbness around the mouth or tips of fingers.

Anyone experiencing health symptoms after contact with contaminated water should visit their doctor and also contact Public Health South on (03) 4769800 to provide them with information about those symptoms.

Fish and shellfish can concentrate toxins and their consumption should be avoided. If fish are eaten, remove the gut and liver and wash in clean water.

Cyanobacteria occur naturally but can increase rapidly during summer months. If the water is cloudy, discoloured, or has small globules suspended in it, all contact should be avoided. Not all cyanobacterial blooms are visible to the naked eye and toxins can persist after the bloom has disappeared.

Cyanobacterial concentrations can change quickly with changing environmental conditions (eg wind).

ORC monitors cyanobacteria weekly at Lake Waihola during summer, and the public will be advised of any changes in water quality that are of public health significance. Signage alerting the public to the presence of cyanobacteria will remain in place until three consecutive samples indicate it is safe.

For more information please contact

Dr Dean Olsen
Manager Resource Science
Ph 0800474082 or 027 6022737

ORC Communications contact

Mark Peart
Team Leader Communications – Channels
Ph 0800 474082 or 027 5312620