Soaring levels of blue-green algae

SOARING levels of blue-green algae in the Tweed's water supply has farmers on high-alert, with warnings livestock exposed to affected waterways could die from poisoning.

Tweed Shire Council yesterday confirmed the potentially toxic algae found in the Bray Park Weir and Clarrie Hall Dam had worsened since last week's health alert.

Landowners who use raw water around the Bray Park Weir are most at risk and are being advised to keep all animals away from affected water as it could kill their cattle, district veterinarian Matt Ball from the Lismore North Coast Livestock Health and Pest Authority warned.

“It (blue-green algae) can kill animals within hours of ingestion, by neurotoxin or liver toxins and can kill animals within 24 to 72 hours,” Dr Ball said.

“Affected animals could show breathing difficulties, twitching of muscles, excessive salivation and weakness.

“If you suspect blue-green algae you should remove animals from all water ways.”

Council's water unit manager Anthony Burnham said unless the weir and dam experienced a significant downpour the algae could last three months.

“The concentration will continue to increase if weather patterns remain the same and we don't see significant rainfall,” Mr Burnham said.

“A lack of water flow has allowed algae-blooms to thrive in ponds situated along the water system.”

Last week council issued a red alert status for the Bray Park Weir, the main source of drinking water for the Tweed.

Residents have also been warned not to drink untreated water and to avoid swimming in the river upstream of the weir.

Mr Burnham said people who came into contact with affected water may suffer diarrhoea, asthma attacks and rashes.

Council has begun powdered activated carbon dosing at the Treatment Plant, a process which absorbs toxins and odours associated with algae.

The country's worst outbreak of blue-green algae was in 1991 when a 1000-kilometre stretch of the Barwon and Darling rivers as affected.

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