Is it still safe to swim in Bay Area waters amid toxic algae bloom? Experts weigh in

ByLeslie Brinkley via KGO logo
Tuesday, August 30, 2022
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Algae bloom in Bay Area waters is killing fish but local agencies say it is still safe to swim, despite concerns from the public.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Over the weekend social media feeds were filled with photos of dead fish washing up on the shorelines around the bay.

Some question the safety of swimming in Bay Area waters as Labor Day weekend approaches.

"The second we got in, I knew it wasn't right. It was way too dark. It was almost like swimming through chocolate," said Sharon Barclay, president of the East Bay Triathlon Club.

She got out when she realized the salty taste of the brown water was different from a couple of weeks ago, and she hasn't gotten back in since then.

MORE: Thousands of dead fish wash ashore around Bay Area due to toxic algae: Here's what this means

"We've actually advised our athletes not to go into the water with the warning that's out there. It's just too risky to put our health at risk," Barclay said.

Signs are posted at some locations along the East Bay shoreline, warning pets and children not to go in and reminding people to not eat clams or mussels harvested from the bay right now. But, technically, swimming is still ok, according to the East Bay Regional Park District

Water Management Supervisor Hal MacLean said, "If the signage is good to go in the water, you may go in the water. Keep the water out of your mouth, and after you've been in the water, shower off and towel off. "

This current red tide or algae bloom is wreaking havoc on aquatic life all over the Bay Area, even spreading into Oakland's Lake Merritt over the weekend, where thousands of dead fish and bat rays have been washing up on the beaches. The algae emits a fish toxin and sucks oxygen out of the water.

RELATED: Harmful algae bloom spreading across San Francisco Bay, turning water brown

The source?

Ian Wren, staff scientist with San Francisco Baykeeper said, "There's about 40 waste treatment plants that discharge a lot of phosphorus and nitrogen into the water. And that's the building block for algae such as this. "

There are no immediate solutions.

Officials are taking water samples every day, so the signage could change between now and Labor Day -- double check if you're planning to go to the beach.

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