Toxic algae found in Wilmington pond after death of dogs

Experts explain how to to spot blue-algae and how to keep it out of your ponds. (Photo: Kylie Jones/WWAY)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The NC Division of Water Resources has received test results that confirm toxic blue green algae was found in a Wilmington pond where three dogs swam hours before they died.

On Thursday, August 8, Melissa Martin took her three dogs to swim in a pond near her neighborhood off Independence Boulevard. Within hours, the dogs began having seizures and later died.

Melissa Martin’s three dogs died hours after they were apparently exposed to blue algae in a neighborhood pond in Wilmington on Aug. 8, 2019. (Photo: Melissa Martin)
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The NC Department of Environmental Quality found out about the death of the three dogs  the following day.

On Monday, August 12, NCDWR field staff went to the pond off Independence Boulevard and took photos that showed algal mats present along the shoreline. Staff identified the algae as cyanobacteria, which has been documented as capable of producing a range of different cyanotoxins, known as blue green algae.

Water samples from the pond were sent to NC State University.

Sarah Young, the Division of Water Resources spokeswoman, said the test results came back this week and revealed two different types of cyanotoxins, cylindrospermopsin and anatoxin-a, were found at low levels in the pond.

The concentration of cylindrospermopsin was below the Environmental Protection Agency’s recreational standard. The EPA has not issued recommendations for recreational guidelines for anatoxin-a.

While the concentration of the toxins were found at low levels, levels can change rapidly, Young said. The conditions sampled may not represent the conditions present when the dogs were exposed.

Field staff went to the pond Monday morning, which was four days after the dogs died.

State environmental officials are monitoring numerous blooms throughout North Carolina, as reflected in an interactive map on the Division of Water Resources website.

NCDWR said blooms are more common during late summer due to warm water temperatures and stagnant bodies of water. Because toxicity levels can change rapidly over time and location, NCDWR said it is best to stay away from all algal blooms whenever possible.

Harmful algal blooms can cause adverse health effects in people as well as animals. The algae can cause skin irritation or respiratory irritation in people who get in the water or handle the algae. Some harmful blooms can be toxic to animals and people who drink the untreated water. As a precaution, state health officials encourage the public to avoid contact with large accumulations of algae and prevent children and pets from swimming or ingesting water in an algal bloom.