Algal bloom management specialists
Delivering environmental solutions
What are algae blooms?
Algal blooms are the rapid growth of microscopic algae that live naturally in the water. Algae are absolutely essential to the quality of fresh and sea water and to the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide (CO2) in water and the atmosphere.
The rapid growth of algae or algal bloom, may be associated with excess of nutrients in the water coming from crop fertilizers, slurry from livestock fields and effluents from nearby sewage treatment works. Also, drastic changes in weather conditions e.g. rainfalls, drought or prolonged warm springs and long summers.
Algae can form blooms in fresh and sea water. There are many types of algae with a range of shapes and colours which give the name to some of the algae groups. For example, chlorophyll is the most abundant pigment for green-algae or chlorophytes. Green-algae have "soft" cells compared to diatom cells which have silica and are "hard."
What are blue-green algae blooms?
Blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, are believed to be the oldest living organisms on the planet earth! The reason is that this organism has biological characteristics of both algae and bacteria.
Blue-green algae blooms are a type of algal blooms and in freshwater are probably the most frequent. Blue-green algae blooms can give the water a blue-green or turquoise colour, or almost any colour within the blue and green spectrum, hence the name given to them. Sometimes the colouration and patterns in the water are truly spectacular.
How do algae blooms affect people and wildlife?
Blue-green algae can release some chemicals in the water that makes the water smell like wet soil (after rainfall) or like rotten wood or mouldy bread. Blue-green algae can also release toxins, better known as cyanotoxins or microcystins.
Effects on People: the cyanotoxins can make the skin itchy and red. If the water is drunk, some of the symptoms are: fever, vomiting, stomach cramps, headaches, joint pains and allergic reaction. It can cause more serious illnesses such as liver damage, nervous system damage and ultimately, if drunk in large quantities or the bloom has a very toxic strain, can be fatal.
Effects on Wildlife: numerous deaths of birds and other animals due to cyanotoxins are well documented.
How can algal blooms affect businesses?
Algal blooms affect the water industry from start to finish of water production: abstraction, treatment and final drinking water. The industry, globally, has invested millions to increase the number of treatment processes to: prevent disruption, eliminate or mitigate the unpleasant taste and odour, breakdown the molecules of toxins; and to invest in equipment and training to test for toxins, taste/odour chemicals and identification.
Algal blooms disrupt recreational waters because they are a hazard for human and animal health for all the reasons mentioned above, leading to prohibiting water sports and other activities.