Threat of toxic blue algae in Brussels canals after heatwave

Threat of toxic blue algae in Brussels canals after heatwave
Illustration shows a pond in the gardens, during a press visit to the greenhouses of the Royal castle in Laken/Laeken, Brussels, before the opening to the public around mid-May, Friday 30 April 2021. BELGA PHOTO BENOIT DOPPAGNE

The Port of Brussels is sending a warning to the residents of Brussels about the threat of toxic blue-green algae, also called cyanobacteria. The high temperatures we have seen over the last few days, with little rainfall, are perfect breeding conditions for the algae to grow in canals and ponds.

The general population is advised to avoid any areas where floating green or bluish algae can be seen. Water enthusiasts in particular, such as fishermen, sailors, rowers and swimmers, should avoid the water as longer exposure can lead to more extreme illness. Swimming in the canals is prohibited.

It is also strongly advised to not eat fish from the canal, as they may feed off of the algae. Do not allow your pets to bathe in the water or drink from affected areas.

How to spot the algae

According to Brussels Environment, cyanobacteria move with the water's current. When individual microorganisms occur in large numbers, they appear as a "bloom" or "water blossom." The blooms appear as a thin, foamy layer on the water's surface. Colour varieties can be green, blue-green, tan, red or white.

Blue algae, also called cyanobacteria, grow on a pond's surface. Credit: Wikimedia

Sometimes, the algae can take on a spherical or thread-like shape. When in doubt about the type of algae you have discovered, Brussels Environment encourages you to send photos to so that researchers can help you identify it.

What to do if you come in contact

Symptoms from ingestion of the algae include skin irritation, headache, nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting and even neurological disorders. For small pets, contact and ingestion of the algae can lead to death.

Related News

Brussels Environment and the Port of Brussels urge those that come into contact with cyanobacteria to consult a doctor as soon as possible and take their pet to a veterinarian.

Copyright © 2024 The Brussels Times. All Rights Reserved.