Signs posted along Russian River warning of toxic algae

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Warnings are posted along Russian River beaches about toxic algae growing along the river banks that's harmful to children and pets. (KGO-TV)

Warnings are posted on Russian River beaches about toxic algae growing along the river banks that's harmful to children and pets.

Health officials are telling people to swim, enjoy the river. So far they've found low levels of it. But they say keep a watchful eye on children and dogs around the shore where it's growing.

Rafting on the Russian River is a summer tradition in Sonoma County, an adventure that brings out families looking to cool off.

"This is fantastic. It's a nice day out here, so we are just spending the week out in Healdsburg, and thought we'd spend a family day down the river," said rafter Henry Sheng.

But as rafters take to the river waters, there's a warning from Sonoma health officials about greenish yellow algae growing along the shoreline. It;s toxic.

"It's mucousy, to the touch. You should rinse it off right away," said Larry Laba of Russian River Adventures Rafting Company.

The health department just posted signs in the sand warning people to stay away from the algae, keep children away from the green sticky stuff and do not let pets eat it, or drink the water.

"It's a moving body of water so we always tell people the situation can change. It takes some time for algae to grow and produce toxins, so we will be continuing to monitor," said Sonoma County Health officer Kern Milman.

And Russian River Adventures owner, Larry Laba is getting the word out to rafters too.

"You see a lot of it in first half mile then you will see very little," Laba said to rafters.

Last year, health officials issued warnings about the harmful algae. They say warmer water temperatures from the drought and changes in wildlife are some factors causing the algae blooms. Sonoma water officials lowering Russian River summer flows plays a role as well.

Health officials say it's safe to swim, just be aware of the problem and especially watch your pets. Last year, a dog died after ingesting the harmful algae.

"Manage your dogs actively when you come out on the river and when you finish rinse off," Laba said.

"I think it's all good as long we stay in the boat and stay safe," said rafter Henry Sheng.

This outdoor tradition is one Henry Sheng is determined to continue no matter what's growing along the river banks.
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