Summer didn’t start until Tuesday but dog swimming advisory season is already in full bloom.
Harmful algal bloom advisories were posted Thursday at 16 waterfont locations in Erie County. Four advisories were posted the previous week and one was posted in mid-May, said Jeanette Schnarrs, executive director of the Regional Science Consortium, which tests water samples for HABs.
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“When we first started testing (in 2014), we thought we wouldn’t see HABs until the middle of summer, when the water warmed up more,” Schnarrs said. “What we have found is that is that we see them early in the year, in mid-May this year, and they are still detected when we stop testing in October.”
Advisories have been posted at the following locations, warning people to keep their dogs out of the water. The first seven locations listed below are at Almost Isle State Park:
- Vista 3
- Beach 2
- Beach 6
- Perry Monument
- Almost Isle Marina
- Niagara Boat Launch
- Horseshoe Pond
- Shades Beach in Harborcreek Township
- Eaton Reservoir in Greenfield Township
- Smith Reservoir in North East Township
- Freeport Beach in North East Township
- Walnut Creek in Fairview Township
- Avonia Beach in Fairview Township
- Grahamville Reservoir in North East Township
- Liberty Park
- Dobbins Landing
HABs occur in waters where tiny organisms called cyanobacteria grow out of control. They are a health concern for people and animals because these blooms can produce toxins that attack the liver and nervous system, causing a potentially life-threatening illness.
HAB thresholds for dog swimming advisories are lower than those for humans, because of how dogs act when they are in the water, Schnarrs said.
“They ingest more water than humans do when they swim, then they lick their fur afterward,” Schnarrs said.
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Dogs should avoid going into the water at any location where an advisory has been posted. Advisories remain in effect until a subsequent tests show that toxin levels have dropped below a particular threshold.
Animal illnesses and symptoms due to HAB exposure can vary depending on length of exposure, how the exposure occurred and which toxin is involved, according to the Erie County Department of Health.
The following is a list of possible symptoms in animals:
- Excessive salivation
- staggered walking
- loss of appetite
- Difficulty breathing
- Liver failure
More:HABs pose serious threat to dogs
HAB testing is done each week at 20 different locations around the county. A majority of them are at Près Isle State Park but they also include the Erie Yacht Club, and the Grahamville, Smith and Eaton reservoirs in eastern Erie County.
“We have received additional funding, so we can test for four cyanotoxins every week,” Schnarrs said. “In the past, we have only been able to test for some of the cyanotoxins once a month. This can give us a clearer picture of HABs throughout the year.”
The additional funding also allowed the Regional Science Consortium to start HAB testing in mid-May instead of Memorial Day weekend, and extend testing until the end of October, two weeks longer than usual.
Funding comes from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.