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Health Warning in Delta
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purple



Joined: 30 Apr 1998
Posts: 15

PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 1:26 pm    Post subject: Health Warning in Delta Reply with quote

Folks,

I want to give everyone a head's up that there is a nasty toxic algal bloom in the Delta right now. THIS IS NOT A JOKE OR INTERNET HOAX. I am a Delta ecologist & part of a large research program that studies the region. Just two weeks ago, my colleagues measured seriously high levels of a toxic blue green alga (Microcystis) at Antioch, which is located at bit downstream of Sherman Island. They measured 1.3 million cells/mL, which is much higher than the 40,000 cells/mL level that triggers a warning to AVOID SWIMMING. Note that these levels were measured during flood tide--our team believes that the toxic levels will be MUCH higher during ebb tide. Other sites in the Delta (Mildred Island) also are at unhealthy levels. In response, San Joaquin County is currently posting warning signs to this effect.

We don't know exactly why the blooms have appeared in the Delta. However, there is some evidence that the toxic blooms have been becoming progressively worse since 1999. "Stable flow conditions" tend to promote blooms, so it is possible that the drought conditions this year have made things worse in the Delta.

At the risk of triggering a wave of paranoia, I personally won't be sailing there until the risk subsides. This may not be until later in the fall!So...what should you do? I am not a public health official, so I can't tell you. However, you should realize that the stuff you are planing over may not be very healthy for you. If you go out, please consider the following: 1) try not to fall too much (duh); 2) don't swallow; 3) keep the kids and dogs out of the water (similar Microcystis levels killed dogs in the Klamath River last year); 4) wear a full suit to avoid contact; 5) confine your sailing to the Sacramento River side of Sherman Island (where there will be less San Joaquin River water).

BTW, please don't be too discouraged if I don't respond to subsequent posts. I'll be fully occupied at an SF conference this Saturday-Thursday.

Dr. Ted Sommer
California Department of Water Resources
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boggsman1



Joined: 24 Jun 2002
Posts: 6546
Location: at a computer

PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 1:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ted,
Thanks for the heads up. The 30kt wind, 4ft ramps, warm weather, all great, but waking up one day with three eyes and no hair, not worth it.

Boggsie
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seshy



Joined: 06 May 2006
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 2:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

what would the effect be on you?

do you think this same bloom would be occuring in the central bay closer to the bridges? the water in sf marina has looked funky the last few weeks...
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rigatoni



Joined: 25 Feb 1999
Posts: 413

PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 2:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I sailed there on Saturday and a great sesh but Sunday and Monday, I was definitely nursing what I thought was a small cold (running nose, headaches, fatigue) I wouldn't be surprised if there was a connection here.
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pearljam99



Joined: 11 Jul 1996
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 3:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"aahhh Great!" there goes my towing practices off Shermy!"
Actually, thanks for the heads up DR. Ted, and do keep us posted. Were these algal bloom levels above the acceptable range last year at this time?
BTW, I'm not telling any of the Kiters! Twisted Evil "he-he"
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isobars



Joined: 12 Dec 1999
Posts: 18651

PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 4:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If I lived closer to the Delta, I'd spend some time researching key words such as microcyst cyanobacteria bloom human.
Links to start with include
http://calwater.ca.gov/BDPAC/Subcommittees/DrinkingWater/DWQP_MeetingNotes_5-19-05/Microcystis_Presentation_5-19-05.pdf and
http://books.google.com/books?id=TbtXar-bV_kC&pg=PA123&lpg=PA123&dq=microcyst+cyanobacteria+bloom+human&source=web&ots=Ei001ilNpM&sig=B6Vn6MDmdtqJZ8_rink9Vxn9jYw .
This isn't trivial stuff.

\m/
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purple



Joined: 30 Apr 1998
Posts: 15

PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 5:18 pm    Post subject: Algal bloom follow-up Reply with quote

In answer to some of your questions:

1) The only warnings that I have heard about have come from San Joaquin county, who will be putting signs at beachs. I have no idea if there are plans to put signs at Sherman.

2) Some sites are probably way better than others. The downstream bridges and bay are probably OK because Microcystis does not do well in salt water & strong tides would tend to mix it out. Note also that upstream sites on the Sacramento (e.g. the Sandbar) are probably OK because the flow is primarily "clean" Sacramento River water.

3) We are still working up the data from last year, so it is harder to do the comparison to last year. However, I can tell you that we have been studying Microcystis since 1999 and I don't remember it EVER reaching substantial levels in downstream areas such as Antioch. Note that last year was a very high flow year, which tends to flush out algae and prevent blooms. So, we were probably fine last year....other than the fact that the wind sucked compared to this year!

Cheers,

Ted
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afolander



Joined: 22 Jul 2002
Posts: 74

PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 5:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'll start worrying when when I see floating fish or dead fisherman.
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tsokat



Joined: 15 May 1997
Posts: 326

PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2007 9:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dr. Ted, has Sacramento County been notified of these findings? If you would do so, it would be a very appreciated public service from SI sailors. I think I will be sailing in salt water until I am convinced that the SI waters are safe in which to play. Definitely keeping my kid and dogs out of there. Fortunately, the sailing focus for me at least begins to shift much more to the Bay and coast at this time fo the year anyway. Isobars is correct in that this is not trivial stuff.

Gosh, it makes me sad to think how we have screwed up our environment. Currently, the air quality for the East Bay is "unhealthful". I would much rather take my chances with Great Whites that the invisable toxins for which man is responsible. Tom
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purple



Joined: 30 Apr 1998
Posts: 15

PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2007 11:12 am    Post subject: Toxic blooms Reply with quote

I am not sure if Sacramento County has been notified, but will check. Solano County should be warned, too. For those of you considering hitting the water, in addition to my previous comments consider the following:

1) Rinse off well with clean water after you sail.
2) Reconsider going in the water if you see small green "cornflakes" floating in the water. This is what the bloom looks like.
3) The blooms are often killed by cooler weather. So....a cool snap could help us get back in the water. However, the literature suggests that the dying cells release their toxins into the water, so the Delta may actually be MORE toxic for a short period after cool weather.

I know this whole thing about risk is complicated and highly individual. I rock climb, backcountry ski in moderate avalance terrain, and sail regularly in sharky water (Waddell). However, I tend to draw the line at jumping into waters that were just measured as "toxic". We have so many other Bay Area spots to sail right now that it isn't worth it to me to roll the dice at Sherman Island.

Dr. Ted Sommer
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