It’s the largest body of water in the state of California and now a warning has been issued for people and their dogs to avoid contact with the water at the Salton Sea.
NBC Palm Springs spoke to the state water board and environmentalists who explain what cyanobacteria are and how it’s harmful.
“They’ve been around on earth for millions and billions of years but the cyanobacteria, they can produce toxins which are harmful to pets and animals,” said Keith Bouma-Gregson, Environmental Scientist with The California State Water Board.
Reports of animals dying after coming in contact with water from the Salton Sea are not common, but it wouldn’t be the first time cyanobacteria has caused illness.
“The regional board does monitoring at six sites in the Salton Sea on a monthly basis. But in this case, we were notified by a dog owner on April 19th of a dog incident that happened a few weeks prior,” explained Bouma-Gregson.
“We have seen cases affecting not just people that come in contact with the water. one case was in the 2000s that was recorded in the Chesapeake Bay where hundreds of thousands of birds died as a result of being exposed to cyanobacteria,” said Frank Ruiz, Salton Sea Director with Audubon California.
A big factor that causes the bacteria to become toxic is the warmer climate.
“In the hotter, more sunlight exposure they go through photosynthesis and that’s when the algae can become toxic for folks,” explained Ruiz.
And it’s not just happening in the southern California region, but statewide.
“Reports that have been made throughout the state with regards to these types of bacteria being present and cautioning the public with regard to swimming and allowing those pets to play in those areas,” said Cassandra Owens, Assistant Executive Officer with Colorado River Basin Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Prompting a warning to those unaware of the toxins, and educating people on the harmful effects.
“I spend two or three days out of the month collecting water, collecting sediment and I just tell people, just to be extra cautious, not to swim in the lake or not to allow their dogs to play in the water especially during the hotter months, those are the months we need to be more careful,” explained Ruiz.
Officials did want to point out that they don’t want to discourage people from visiting the Salton Sea, but they want to make sure people are educated about the dangers of cyanobacteria before doing so.