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Department of Health Services

Environmental Health and Safety

Blue-Green Algae (Cyanobacteria)

Algae, including blue-green algae (aka cyanobacteria), can be normally found in many water environments, such as the Russian River. When high temperatures and increased nutrient levels in the water occur, algae can grow more rapidly than normal. This creates blooms of algae that may cluster together to look like a mat floating on the surface of the water. Most algae is harmless; however, some species of BGA, classified as harmful algal blooms (HABs), produce toxins that can harm the health of humans and animals.

Throughout the summer, Environmental Health (EH) of the Sonoma County Department of Health Services (DHS) and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (NCRWQCB) will continue the monitoring conditions along the Russian River.

Currently, there are educational health advisories in place and the Russian River is open to visitors. Should conditions change to support the growth of blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) and Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs), information will be posted on the County webpage along with recommended health precautions. Information will be updated as needed.

In accordance with the California Guidance Response for Harmful Algal Blooms (CCHAB), the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board directed Environmental Health to post educational signs at the following locations:

  • Gualala River: “Check For Algae” Educational Sign Posted
  • Russian River:
    • Cloverdale River Park: “Toxic Algal Alert" Educational Sign Posted
    • Del Rio Woods Beach: “Toxic Algal Alert" Educational Sign Posted
    • Camp Rose Beach: “Toxic Algal Alert" Educational Sign Posted
    • Healdsburg Veterans Beach: “Toxic Algal Alert" Educational Sign Posted
    • Steelhead Beach: “Toxic Algal Alert" Educational Sign Posted
    • Forestville Access Beach: “Toxic Algal Alert" Educational Sign Posted
    • Sunset Beach: “Toxic Algal Alert" Educational Sign Posted
    • Johnson’s Beach: “Toxic Algal Alert" Educational Sign Posted
    • Monte Rio Beach: “Toxic Algal Alert" Educational Sign Posted
    • Patterson Point: “Toxic Algal Alert" Educational Sign Posted
      • Samples collected at Patterson Point on July 7, 2022 were non-detect for toxins. Although the cyanobacteria are not toxigenic at this point in time, the “Toxic Algae Alert” sign will remain in place since cyanobacteria are present in moderate amounts and their toxicity could change in the coming weeks.
  • Salmon Creek: “Toxic Algal Alert" Educational Sign Posted
  • Spring Lake: “Toxic Algal Alert" Educational Sign Posted
    • Note: The Spring Lake Swimming Lagoon has not been impacted by blue green algae and open for swimming

Healthy Water Habits

At all times, DHS encourages individuals to follow healthy water habits for recreational river use:

  • Do not drink river water. Do not cook or wash dishes with river water
  • Wash yourself and your family with clean water after river play
  • Consume fish only after removing guts and liver, and rinsing fillets in clean water. Mercury has been detected in fish from the Russian River. Check here for additional guidance regarding mercury in fish: https://oehha.ca.gov/advisories/russian-river
  • Bring your life jacket, but leave the alcohol at home. The side effects of alcohol – impaired judgment, reduced balance, poor coordination – can be magnified by the boating environment. For additional safety tips please visit the State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways: http://dbw.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=28711
  • Algal mats tri-fold: Link to Document
  • Illness tracking fact sheet: Link to document

Test Results from Previous Years

The following test results include all locations:

Related Links