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West Virginia Office of Environmental Health Services
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"HEALTHY PEOPLE THROUGH HEALTHY ENVIRONMENTS IN WV"

Information on Cyanobacterial Blooms (Blue-green Algae Blooms) or
Harmful Algal Blooms

Harmful Algal Bloom FAQs

CDC Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB)-Associated Illness  https://www.cdc.gov/habs/index.html

Animal Safety Alert

Physician Reference

Veterinarian Reference

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection  http://www.dep.wv.gov/WWE/Algae

Ohio EPA Algae Information for Recreational Waters  http://epa.ohio.gov/habalgae.aspx

Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commissioner (ORSANCO)  http://www.orsanco.org

Harmful Algal Bloom Online Resources   (pdf with embedded links)

West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources
Harmful Algal Bloom Response Plans

Recent harmful algal blooms have highlighted the need for multi-agency, statewide harmful algal bloom response plans in West Virginia. A coordinated effort is crucial to successfully respond to harmful algal blooms. The purpose of West Virginia's Harmful Algal Bloom Response Plan is to provide a unified statewide approach to address harmful algal blooms in West Virginia's recreational waters and to protect people and animals from toxins produced by cyanobacteria. The focus of this plan is on public recreational waters, although these principles and practicies can apply to any body of water. The HAB response plan is an annex to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) Public Health All Hazards Threat Response Plan. See the DHHR Public Health All Hazards Threat Response Plan and the West Virginia State Emergency Operations Plan for more information.

State agencies primarily responsible for responding to harmful algal blooms in West Virginia's recreational waters include West Virginia's BPH, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Division of Natural Resources (DNR) and Local Health Departments (LHDs). Federal agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and community partners also play an important role. The roles and responsibilities of each of the state agencies and partners that participated in the development of the recreational water response plan are detailed in the plan. Also included is background information on harmful algal blooms and the following response activities: observing and reporting potential harmful algal blooms; reporting illness in humans and animals; sampling, screening and cyanotoxin analysis; data management and information sharing; posting harmful algal bloom advisories; public awareness and education; and media outreach for harmful algal blooms.

2017 Response Plan for Recreational Waters in West Virginia - Click here

A separate response plan for responding to HABs on sources of drinking water follows the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) "Recommendations for Public Water Systems to Manage Cyanotoxins in Drinking Water" (2015) and includes guidance on testing private drinking water sources for the prsence of cyanotoxins and treatment options.

2017 Response Plan for Drinking Water in West Virginia - Click here

Reporting Harmful Algal Blooms

Individuals or agencies that observe a potential HAB in public recreational waters are encouraged to report the HAB at http://tagis.dep.wv.gov/algae or complete an Algal Bloom Report Form and e-mail the form to West Virginia's HAB mailbox at HAB@wv.gov.  

Reporting Harmful Algal Bloom-Associated Illness

Suspected or confirmed cases of HAB exposure and illness fall under Category II as "any unusual condition or emerging infectious disease" (WV Code 16-3-1; 64 CSR 7) and should be reported by healthcare facilities and providers to the LHD where the individual resides, within 24-hours of exposure, using the Human Illness Reporting Form. Veterinarians with knowledge of an animal case of HAB exposure and illness are encouraged to report this to the LHD where the animal resides using the Animal Illness Reporting Form. LHDs receiving HAB illness reports from physicians or veterinarians should fax completed forms to the BPH's Office of Epidemiology and Prevention Services at 304-558-8736. Alternatively, LHDs can collect case information using the report forms and fax completed forms to the BPH. 

Reports of harmful algal blooms and sampling data can be found at http://dep.wv.gov/WWE/Algae.  

Public Health Advisory Thresholds and Public Health Advisories

Public advisories are necessary to inform the public of the health risks associated with exposure to water that contains cyanotoxins. The State of West Virginia will issue two levels of advisories for recreational waters based upon the available evidence, as described below. It is recommended that all coordinating agencies post (and remove) advisories according to this plan to ensure consistency in messaging. Electronic versions of the sign templates are available below for use by LHDs and coordinating agencies to help ensure timely and consistent messaging across the state. 

Public Health Advisory Threshold Levels for Cyanotoxins in Recreational Waters

Click here for Threshold level information.

a. HAB General Information Sign

Harmful algal bloom general information signs with the following language will also be posted for recreational waters with a history of HAB occurrence or upon confirmation of a potential HAB: "Have fun on the water, but know that blue-green alge are present in many of West Virginia's recreational waters. Their toxins may be, too. Be alert! Avoid water that: looks like spilled paint; has surface scums, mats or films; is discolored or has colored streaks; has green globs floating below the surface. Avoid swallowing the water! For more information go to: http://www.wvdhhr.org/oehs or http://dep.wv.gov/WWE/Algae". Click here for the General Information sign template.

b. Recreational Public Health Watch Advisory

When a potential HAB is confirmed and cyanotoxin levels are equal to or exceed the Recreational Public Health Watch Advisory Threshold leve (6 micrograms/Liter for mircocystin), a Recreational Public Health Watch Advisory will be issued whether or not a HAB is still present. An ORANGE sign (with black lettering) with the following language will be posted: "A harmful algal bloom (HAB) is present and/or algal toxins have been detected in this area. Swimming and wading are not recommended for children, pregnant or nursing women, those with certain medical conditions and pets. For more information go to: http://www.wvdhhr.org/oehs or http://dep.wv.gov/WWE/Algae or contact your local health department at [Insert LHD info]". Click here for the Recreational Public Health Watch Advisory sign template.

Once a HAB advisory is posted, sampling for cyanotoxin will occur according to standard sampling procedures for cyanotoxin found in the Harmful Algal Bloom Response Plan. The Public Health Watch Advisory may be lifted after two consecutive samples taken at least one week apart indicate cyanotoxin concentrations are below the watch advisory threshold level and the algal bloom has dissipated.

c. Recreational Public Health Warning Advisory

A Recreational Public Health Warning Advisory will be issued when cyanotoxin levels are equal to or exceed the Recreational Public Health Warning Advisory Threshold level (20 micrograms/Liter for mircocystin). A RED sign (with black lettering) with the following language will be posted: "Algal toxins at UNSAFE levels have been detected in this area. Swimming, wading and water activities that create spray are not recommended. For more information go to: http://www.wvdhhr.org/oehs or http://dep.wv.gov/WWE/Algae or contact your local health department at [Insert LHD info]". Click here for the Recreational Public Health Warning Advisory sign template.

A Public Health Warning Advisory may be lifted after two consecutive samples taken at least one week apart indicate cyanotoxin concentrations are below the warning advisory threshold level and the algal bloom has dissipated. If cyanotoxin levels remain above public health watch advisory levels, the warning advisory will be changed to a watch advisory.


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    Last updated September 01, 2017.