July 8, 2016

Lake Billy Chinook health advisory expanded to Crooked River arm

From the Oregon Health Authority:
High toxin levels found in Jefferson County reservoir 

The health advisory issued July 1 for the Metolius arm of Lake Billy Chinook is being extended to include the Crooked River arm. An additional sample collected at Cove Palisades Marina confirmed the presence of blue-green algae and the toxins they produce. These toxin concentrations can be harmful to humans and animals. Lake Billy chinook is located about 12 miles west of Madras in Jefferson County. 

The advisory is confined to the Metolius and Crooked River arms. The Deschutes River arm is not affected by this advisory because sampling performed there confirmed that toxins were well below established guideline values. 

Swallowing water while swimming or inhaling water droplets as a result of high-speed water activities, such as water skiing and power boating, should be avoided in areas where blooms are identified. Although toxins are not absorbed through the skin, people who have skin sensitivities may experience a puffy, red rash at the affected area. 

Drinking water directly from the Metolius or Crooked River arms of Lake Billy Chinook is especially dangerous at this time. Oregon Public Health officials advise campers and other recreational visitors that toxins cannot be removed by boiling, filtering or treating the water with camping-style filters. 

People who may draw in-home water directly from the Metolius or Crooked River arms of Lake Billy Chinook are advised to use an alternative water source because private treatment systems are not proven effective at removing algae toxins. However, public drinking water systems can reduce algae toxins through proper filtration and disinfection. If people on public water systems have questions about treatment and testing, they should contact their water supplier. If people have questions about water available at nearby campgrounds they should contact campground management. 

Oregon health officials recommend that people who choose to eat fish from waters where algae blooms are present remove all fat, skin and organs before cooking, because toxins are more likely to collect in these tissues. Fillets should also be rinsed with clean water. Public health officials also advise people to not eat freshwater clams or mussels from Metolius or Crooked River arms of Lake Billy Chinook and that Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations do not allow the harvest of these shellfish from freshwater sources. Crayfish muscle can be eaten, but internal organs and liquid fat should be discarded. 

Exposure to toxins can produce symptoms of numbness, tingling and dizziness that can lead to difficulty breathing or heart problems, and require immediate medical attention. Symptoms of skin irritation, weakness, diarrhea, nausea, cramps and fainting should also receive medical attention if they persist or worsen. Children and pets are at increased risk for exposure because of their size and level of activity. People who bring their pets fishing with them should take special precautions to keep them from drinking from or swimming in the Metolius or Crooked River arms of Lake Billy Chinook. 

The public will be advised when the concern no longer exists. 

With proper precautions to avoid water contact, people are encouraged to visit the Metolius and Crooked River arms of Lake Billy Chinook and enjoy activities such as fishing, camping, hiking, biking, picnicking, and bird watching. Boating is safe as long as speeds do not create excessive water spray, which could lead to inhalation risk. 

For health information or to report an illness, to include your pet, contact the Oregon Health Authority at 971-673-0400

OHA maintains an updated list of all health advisories on its website. To find out if an advisory has been issued or lifted for a specific water body, visit the Harmful Algae Blooms website (http://public.health.oregon.gov/HealthyEnvironments/Recreation/HarmfulAlgaeBlooms/Pages/index.aspx) and select "algae bloom advisories," or call the Oregon Public Health Division toll-free information line at 1-877-290-6767.

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