Environmental health keeps a watchful eye on blue-green algae bloom

The large blue-green algae bloom which has developed in the Minch and is being monitored by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency. Photograph: SEPA. No_F24bloom01
The large blue-green algae bloom which has developed in the Minch and is being monitored by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency. Photograph: SEPA. No_F24bloom01

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Highland Council was notified of a large blue-green algae bloom in the Minch last week which was being closely monitored by the local authority’s environmental health department as it can pose risks to the health of people and their pets.

The bloom stretched for miles along the coast of Harris, Uist, Barra and Skye and there were fears that it had potential to spread even further.

Satellite imagery provided by Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) showed the vast extent of the bloom, which can cause problems for humans and wildlife or pets – though not always – which can include skin rashes, eye irritation, vomiting and diarrhoea, fever and pains in muscles and joints. Toxic algae has previously caused fatalities among livestock, dogs, water birds and fish.

Blue-green algae exists throughout the UK, and the world, and it is particularly noticeable when their concentrations increase to form blooms or scums – looking like blue-green paint.

As a precautionary measure people are being advised to avoid any contact with any algal scum and to keep their pets away from it.

SEPA, the council environmental health department will continue to monitor the bloom until it has cleared. The behaviour of algae is erratic and the level of its toxicity can fluctuate, it can also appear one day, and disappear the next, it can be dispersed by the wind or even re-accumulate at any time.