Contact: Austin Hopkins, conservation associate, 208-345-6933 ext. 23 firstname.lastname@example.org
BOISE – The Idaho Conservation League today called for statewide action to curb the pollution that is contributing to toxic outbreaks of algae in southern Idaho.
This comes as news that a 1-year-old dog died after swimming in Henry’s Fork, near Rexburg on Tuesday. Separately, a pond tainted by toxic algae was closed at Eagle Island State Park along the Boise River, to protect public health.
"Toxic algae that kills our pets and our fish is also unhealthy for humans," said Austin Hopkins, conservation associate with the Idaho Conservation League. "As our summers grow hotter and drier, we are seeing more and more of these outbreaks. Doing nothing is unacceptable."
Blue-green algae are present at low levels in Idaho waters; however, when waters become polluted and warm, outbreaks can become highly toxic. According to news reports, the healthy young dog dropped dead after a short swim in the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River on July 17.
Hopkins noted that outbreaks are becoming increasingly common in the southern part of the state, especially along the Snake River. Each year, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality works with local public health districts to issue advisories to restrict water contact, including in popular recreation areas such as Brownlee Reservoir where advisories have become a yearly occurrence.
"The Snake River is the lifeblood of Idaho, providing drinking water for 400,000 Idahoans, much of it from the connected aquifer. The Snake River also provides irrigation waters that supports Idaho’s agriculture," he said. "It’s in everyone’s best interest to keep Idaho’s water clean."
Part of the challenge of cleaning up the Snake River and nearby ponds and aquifers is that much of the pollution is unregulated "nonpoint source" pollution. Nonpoint source pollution, such as runoff from roads, farm fields, dairies and feedlots, is considered differently than point source pollution that is discharged from the end of a pipe.
Another challenge is the lack of dedicated state funding for regular monitoring efforts of Idaho waterbodies. Unfortunately, the Idaho DEQ lacks sufficient funding to devote to this important public health threat. Instead DEQ relies largely on reports from the public through the Bloomwatch Application that is available for download at: https://cyanos.org/bloomwatch/.
"We all have a stake in this problem and all can be a part of the solution," Hopkins said. "This time of year is when our kids and pets should be able to cool off, swim, and play in Idaho’s waters," he concluded. "That is a future we should all strive for."