Blue-green algae occur naturally in many inland freshwaters. Occasionally, blue-green algae ‘blooms', colouring the water green, blue-green or greenish brown and sometimes causing paint-like or jelly-like scums. While the outbreak of blue-green algae in summer is a natural occurrence, it can be harmful to the skin, causing allergic reactions including itchy eyes, skin irritation and hay fever-like symptoms.
Due to the uncertainty surrounding the toxicity of blue-green algae, we're encouraging towpath users, their children and pets to avoid contact with the water. Similarly, boaters handling wet ropes or anglers coming into contact with the water should wash exposed skin, particularly before eating or drinking. Warning signs have been placed around the affected areas.
Wildlife and heritage
Louie Ramsden, environmental scientist at the Canal & River Trust said: “The Lancaster Canal is a great place for people to come for a walk or cycle to see the varied wildlife and heritage it offers and is popular with boaters and anglers. We want people to continue to enjoy the lovely waterside setting but to be aware that there's a current outbreak of blue-green algae in the water
“Blue-green algae is naturally occurring at this time of year but it can be harmful to your skin. We're asking people to be extra careful and if they or their pets come into contact with the affected water, they should wash all exposed skin with clean water as soon as possible, and particularly before eating or drinking. If they are in any doubt about their welfare after contact with algae, they should seek medical advice.”
The potential outbreaks of blue-green algae may persist whilst the weather remains warm. The location and extent of the bloom and any scums may vary with wind, weather and water movements so visitors are being asked to continue to enjoy the waterside but remain vigilant.