Illinois officials confirm algal bloom on the Illinois River near Starved Rock

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WMBD) — State officials said they found microcystin, an algal toxin known for killing pets, after sampling sections of the Illinois River Thursday, June 25.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) collected samples along the northern bank of the Illinois River at the Starved Rock Lock & Dam located at Illinois River mile 231.1. The Illinois EPA’s laboratory confirmed the microcystin level in the sample at 138 parts per billion (ppb), exceeding the health advisory limit.

Depending on the amount and type of exposure, algal toxins produced by blue-green algae can cause sickness or other adverse health effects in people and pets.

Those who are most at risk if exposed to the algal toxins are the very young, elderly, and people with compromised immune systems. Algal toxins can cause negative health effects 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 can come from longer or greater amounts of exposure.

Residents who plan to recreate in, 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
• has greenish globs suspended in the water below the surface

Above all, the Illinois EPA is advising that residents do not let pets drink from or play near a water source with any of the above characteristics, as the algal toxins can become fatally ill. They said rinse off with clean fresh water as soon as possible if you or your pet come into contact with water that may have a bloom of blue-green algae.

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

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