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Residents should continue to use caution on Illinois River

Algal bloom confirmed in Hennepin, Marseilles areas

Illinois officials have confirmed an elevated level of toxins on the Illinois River from blue-green algae.

An initial screening test conducted on a water sample taken last week near Hennepin indicated an elevated level of microcystin, at a level well above the health advisory limit. The sample taken near Marseilles detected microcystin just slightly above the health advisory limit, according to a joint press release issued by the Illinois EPA and the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The Illinois EPA will conduct additional sampling this week to determine if conditions have improved along the Illinois River.

Sampling also was done at Illinois American Water-Peoria, the only public water supply using the Illinois River as a water source, which showed toxins are below the detection limit.

Algal toxins (for example, microcystin and cylindrospermopsin) sometimes produced by blue-green algae can cause sickness or other adverse health effects in people and pets, depending on the amount and type of exposure, according to the press release.

The very young, elderly and people with compromised immune systems are most at risk.

Adverse health effects attributable to algal toxins can occur from direct skin contact, swallowing contaminated water, or inhaling water droplets in the air. Symptoms of exposure include rashes, hives, diarrhea, vomiting, coughing or wheezing. More severe symptoms may result from longer or greater amounts of exposure.

As noted last week, people who plan to spend time on, or near Illinois rivers, lakes or streams are advised to avoid contact with water that: looks like spilled, green or blue-green paint, has surface scums, mats, or films, is discolored or has green-colored streaks, or has greenish globs suspended in the water below the surface.

Do not let pets drink from water with any of the above characteristics.

If anyone comes into contact with water that may have a bloom of blue-green algae, rinse off with clean, fresh water as soon as possible. With all activities that may involve contact with lake or stream water, wash hands before eating.

Contact your health care provider or call the Illinois Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 if you have come into contact with the bloom. If your pet experiences symptoms that may be a result of exposure, contact your veterinarian.

For additional information about harmful algal blooms, go to http://www.dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/environmental-health-protection/toxicology/habs or http://www.epa.illinois.gov/topics/water-quality/monitoring/algal-bloom/index

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