NC health officials warn of toxic algae in Chowan River near Arrowhead Beach


Map of the location of Arrowhead Beach, NC (Google Maps)

RALEIGH, NC (WNCT) – The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services says the public should stay out of the Chowan River near Arrowhead Beach, because of an algal bloom producing a toxin called Microcystin.

According to state officials, testing shows this bloom is producing Microcystin at levels greater than 250 micrograms per liter, which is the rate considered by the NC Division of Public Health to pose a high risk for acute health problems in humans, based on data from the World Health Organization.

State environmental officials said they have been monitoring the numerous blooms in the Chowan River since May.

On July 17, staff from the Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Water Resources responded to a reported algal bloom near Arrowhead Beach north of Edenton and will continue to monitor the bloom.

The algal toxin microcystin is produced by organisms called cyanobacteria. Environmental conditions controlling toxin production by cyanobacteria are not well understood and can change rapidly over time and location. North Carolina has had no reports of adverse health effects in people associated with this algal bloom.

Because of the high microcystin levels, state health officials further suggest the following steps to safeguard children and pets:

  • Keep children and pets away from water that appears bright green, blue, discolored or scummy. Do not handle or touch large mats of algae.
  • Avoid handling, cooking or eating dead fish that may be present.
  • If you come into contact with affected waters, wash thoroughly with soap and clean water. 
  • Use clean water to rinse off pets that may have come into contact with affected waters.
  • If your child appears ill after being in affected waters, seek medical care immediately.
  • If your pet appears to stumble, stagger or collapse after being near affected waters, seek veterinary care immediately.

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