Danger alert over toxic water weed

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DARE-DEVIL swimmers have been warned to keep out of Wigan’s lakes and waterways – or risk being poisened.

The Canal and River Trust today launched an urgent appeal advising visitors to the canals through the borough to avoid contact with the water during the hot weather due to a potential bloom of blue-green algae.

The warnings apply equally to other stretches of calm water including the local flashes.

Blue-green algae occurs naturally and occasionally blooms, colouring the water green, blue-green or greenish brown and sometimes causing paint-like or jelly-like scums. While a natural occurrence, these blooms can be harmful to the skin, causing allergic reactions including itchy eyes, skin irritation and hay fever-like symptoms.

Ingestion of the algae can lead to respiratory problems, diarrhoea and vomiting. In very rare cases there have been respiratory arrests and even deaths.

And due to the uncertainty surrounding toxicity, the Trust is encouraging towpath users, their children and pets to avoid contact with the water. Warning signs have been placed around affected areas.

Cath Ferguson, the trust’s environment manager, said: “The canal is a great place for people to come for a walk or cycle to see the varied wildlife and heritage the canal offers. We want people to continue to enjoy the lovely waterside setting but to be aware that there’s a current outbreak of blue-green algae in the water

“Blue-green algae is naturally occurring at this time of year but it can be harmful to your skin.

“We’re asking people to be extra careful and if they or their pets come into contact with the affected water, they should wash all exposed skin with clean water as soon as possible, and particularly before eating or drinking. If they are in any doubt about their welfare after contact with algae, they should seek medical advice.”

The potential outbreaks may persist while the weather is warm.

The location and extent of blooms may vary with wind, weather and water movements so visitors are being asked to continue enjoying the waterside but stay vigilant.

The police and local authorities have previously issued warnings about the other perils of swimming in canals, flashes and water-filled quarries and recommend that swimming pools be used instead.