Part of the Columbia River shoreline in Richland has been closed to recreation again due to toxic algae.

A toxic algae bloom along the Columbia River in Richland is back. The Benton Franklin Health District closed part of the shoreline to recreation in mid-September after reports of three dogs dying and others being sickened after playing in the water. Testing showed a high level of neurotoxin in the water linked to a blue algae bloom.

Weeks of testing followed, with the health district finally finding the water safe as of Oct. 18 and reopening the shoreline. But that did not last long.

Followup testing found toxic levels of cyanobacteria in the river once again. By the end of the week the health district again closed the shoreline in Richland from the Leslie Groves Park boat launch at Snyder Street to the dike at the south end of the park. The toxin linked to the algae blooms is particularly dangerous to small children and animals that ingest the water. It can be fatal. Dogs can be exposed not only by drinking the water but also by licking contaminated water off their fur or paws. Symptoms can appear within 15 minutes, depending on the size of the dog or person and the amount of the neurotoxin consumed, according to the Benton Franklin Health District.

Symptoms in dogs can include weakness, staggering, difficulty breathing and convulsions. Symptoms in people can include numb lips, tingling fingers and toes and dizziness. Toxins also can accumulate in fish tissues, especially in the liver, kidneys and other organs. The health district advises caution in eating fish, particularly their organs, that are caught in areas with a major cyanobacteria bloom. The health district will be conducting weekly testing until levels are again determined to be safe.

Toxic algae blooms vary in appearance, but commonly look like pea soup or are blue-green or turquoise in color. Harmful algae blooms can be green, blue, red or brown, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

They can be scummy or look like paint on the surface of the water. However, the level of toxicity can vary day to day and the only way to determine whether the water is safe is by testing. Toxic algae blooms were reported across Washington state in areas not seen before in late summer and fall.

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