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Cyanobacteria

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Scott Patterson, Sep 29, 2020.

  1. Scott Patterson

    Scott Patterson

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    Many canyons in Zion are closed because of cyanobacteria.

    An educated guess would say that the cyanobacteria outbreak goes beyond the park borders. It's just monitored in the National Park. It seems that people are doing canyons outside the park to avoid it, but it also seems like other canyons in the vicinity might have it (Misery, Parunaweap, Deep Creek, Kanarra Creek, Benson Creek, Kolob near the MIA [unless it's dry], Ashdown Gorge, etc.

    Looking at photos of it, it just looks like algae. How do you recognize it? What are you supposed to do if you see some in a canyon? I mean besides trying to keep your head out of the water.
  2. 2065toyota

    2065toyota

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    Has this always been here or is it just a new thing?

    Is it coming to light as a ploy to try keep people out of the canyons and zion while the trail police are not there enforcing permits?

    Just curious as to why never heard of it until the year everything is shut down. Maybe I just need to pay more attention?
  3. stefan

    stefan wandering utahn

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    it killed a dog (puppy) on the 4th of july weekend. they began monitoring it in the north fork on july 7th. the levels are very high relative to the regulatory threshold. also the amount of toxins can depend on recreational disturbance. biologists have said they the cyanobacteria has likely been there before. i am unsure if it is known whether the toxin levels have changed over time.
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2020
  4. 2065toyota

    2065toyota

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    If it has likely been there before and there havn't been any issues, then I would have to assume that there likely wouldn't be any issues in the future.

    Just a crazy coincidence?
  5. stefan

    stefan wandering utahn

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    there are blooms so it can fluctuate over time and potentially be worse at times. its effects in the past may also not have been recognized if it previously caused any issues. past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results. monitoring + experienece may provide more information towards this.
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  6. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    For those of you who still believe in science, here is an update from the Zion NP Scientist who is on top of this (starting with my paraphrase of other information):

    CYANOBACTERIS UPDATE Sept 7, 2020

    KEY TAKEAWAY: Children who cannot take proper precautions should not be brought to the Narrows to hike, nor allowed to play in the river anywhere in the Zion area.

    I have received some new information on the Cyanobacteria Bloom (CB Bloom), and wanted to pass that on, along with MY interpretation of the risk factors involved in hiking the Narrows from the end of the paved trail up to Big Spring and/or the falls in Orderville. I am not a biologist, but I do have a science background.

    A. Cyanobacteria are a natural part of the environment and usually present in small quantities everywhere. Some species of CB produce a toxin that is released into the water when colonies are disturbed. It is quickly diluted by stream flow to non-detectable levels. The toxin is quite potent.

    B. Don't be OCD.

    C. Blooms occur under specific circumstances, usually from an excess of nutrients entering the water, such as fertilizer runoff or other events that produce a feast for these bacteria. Where do we see algal blooms? Usually warm pools in the sun, low altitude, with nutrients.

    D. Cyanobacteria are not algae, but they have similar properties, so we call it an algal bloom, even though it is a cyanobacteria colony bloom. If you see algal mats, they might be algae or they might be CB. Avoid disturbing the algal mats (basically, anything you can see growing in the water).

    E. There is a bloom of cyanobacteria in the river (the North Fork) that has been noted in several places, including from the end of the Riverside Walk to Orderville. This makes the river water unsafe to drink even with filtration, and makes the river unsafe to play in for humans and pets. The water in The Narrows is contaminated in some places with cyanobacteria and the toxin. While hiking may be okay, swimming and jumping in the water resulting in the head going underwater is very much to be avoided. (Lots of words for: Don't put your head under the water. Don't get any water in your mouth or nose.) This does not mean that the water in The Narrows IS hazardous... but it does mean it CAN be hazardous, and should be considered as hazardous.

    F. Children who cannot take proper precautions should not be brought to the Narrows to hike.

    G. The toxin is not generally detectable in the water of the Narrows. The reason it isn't in the water column is because it is within the algae mats that live on rocks and plants within the river. It is only present in the water column when the mats become dislodged or disturbed. Recreating in the river can cause the algae mats to become disturbed, releasing the toxin into the water. The biggest DANGER from the Cyanobacteria is disturbing a colony and then collecting drinking water from below where you have disturbed. You may not know you have disturbed a colony. Small particles from the colony and the toxin are not visible in the water.

    H. Water filters do not remove the toxin. (Carry all your water for the day with you from civilized water sources). In addition, the river is contaminated by an active cattle ranch at the head of The Narrows that puts more bacteria than usual into the river. Simple filtering of the water may not be enough to make it safe to drink.

    I. Playing in the River below The Narrows in the Park and in Springdale is a bad bad idea. There are more colonies down there. Don't do that, and do not let your DOG do that. Cats... not an issue.

    J. There is some risk in hiking The Narrows at the moment. The risk is small, but it is very difficult to judge how small. It is up to you to judge this risk, decide whether it is acceptable, and to manage the risk by taking actions as noted above.

    Stay Safe. Have Fun.

    From the NPS Physical Scientist:

    Hi Tom,

    Feel free to forward my e-mail. I appreciate you reaching out to ask some questions.

    We conducted a full survey from the end of the Riverside Walk to Orderville. Colonies were observed throughout this hike albeit less abundant than below the end of Riverside Walk. Advisories are based off of the reasonable worst case scenario of exposure which in our case is incidentally ingesting a bacteria mat after disturbing a colony through normal recreational activities. Given this scenario, levels of toxins came back as capable of causing long term illnesses in the Narrows.

    This is such an emerging issue for the park and the state's HAB experts; I appreciate your patience and understanding as we work through this together.

    Robyn
    _____________________________
    Robyn L. Henderek (she/her)

    Physical Scientist
    Resource Management and Research Division
    Zion National Park | Cedar Breaks National Monument | Pipe Spring National Monument
    Office: 435-772-0158 | Cell: 609-240-4823 | Post: Zion National Park, State Route 9, Springdale, Utah, 84767 | Email: robyn_henderek@nps.gov | Schedule: Monday - Thursday
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  7. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    There are a number of factors that came together this year to produce a bloom. Lack of rain, lack of flash floods, is pretty common. But there also has to be an excess of nutrients in the water which may not have occurred to this extent before. The puppy dying kinda forced the issue...

    I guess one person's "crazy coincidence" is another person's "a number of factors coming together".

    Tom
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  8. stefan

    stefan wandering utahn

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    i would be interested to know more about the answers to your question. some of the basics (which you already know) might be worth mentioning

    children and pets are more susceptible
    don't intake any water when swimming (it can enter mouth, nose, eyes)
    wash hands before touching food
    avoid areas of algae scum (if possible)
    disturbing the cyanobacteria has been observed to release more toxins in the water (maybe unavoidable but awareness is helpful)
    the cyanobacteria/toxins could be flushed out with a flood (knowledge of recent floods could be helpful during times when the cyanobacteria grows)

    symptoms are: skin rash, salivation, drowsiness, tingling, burning, numbness, pain, incoherent speech, muscle contractions or twitching, vomiting, and diarrhea.

    as far as identifying it, while i think photos would be helpful, the nps says: "The likely cyanobacteria blooming in the Virgin River is the genus Tychonema. It forms colonies that can be red, yellow, tan, green, brown, or black in color. It produces the cyanotoxin called anatoxin-a, which impacts the nervous system."

    here is one example photo that the park uses
    Microcoleus.JPG
  9. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Thanks Stefan, but I disagree on a few minor-perhaps points.

    1. You cannot tell CB colonies and Algae apart, so consider what you see to be CB colonies.
    2. There is no toxin in the water unless there is disturbance of the CB colonies. Avoid disturbing algal matts (and CB colonies).
    3. There may have been disturbances upstream of where you are, so take that into account.
    4. Filtering, UV, etc. of water with the toxin in it will not eliminate the toxin. Boiling will.
    5. Do not ingest river water with CB toxin potential.
    6. Children, teens and pets are most susceptible, mostly because they are not very good at following rules.

    Yes, do not intake any water when swimming. Best to just not put your head underwater.
    Yes, when we get eventually get some good flash floods, it should clean it all out.

    But, as said elsewhere, the water is not filled with the toxin. There is the possibility that any specific piece of water MIGHT be contaminated in a significant manner.

    IDENTIFICATION - I think it a fool's errand to try to differentiate between algae, non-toxic CB colonies and toxic CB colonies. If you would like to do that RELIABLY, you would need to receive training and then verify that you can successfully, reliably identify which is which via genetic testing.

    Tom
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2020
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  10. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Do you have evidence to support this claim?

    Tom
  11. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    I mean, Scott, got anything like this???

    Pine Creek Closed.
  12. stefan

    stefan wandering utahn

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    thanks, i appreciate and agree with your input/points. (i posted before seeing your post)

    this is a good clarification which I should have stated.

    prior to disturbance, water columns sampled have been found to be free from toxins. water scientists then test the water after walking along the cyanobacterial mat to simulate recreation and find high levels of toxins in the water columns (similarly high levels as when the toxins are tested directly in the cyanobacterial mat itself).
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2020
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  13. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    And now it is official: This is for the public in regards to the current closures for Canyoneering routes at Zion NP.

    Zion has been working closely with the Utah Health Department and Utah Division of Water Quality to better assess and understand the conditions of the toxin-producing cyanobacteria found in some water sources in the park.


    While there is still much more to learn about cyanotoxins and cyanobacteria, park management is moving forward with opening some resources to provide opportunities for the public to engage in recreational activities outdoors. With this in mind, unexpected environmental circumstances can challenge NPS officials to reassess and possibly open or close resources at any time. Conditions can be extremely unstable and variable in wild canyons.


    The determination of which resources are open or closed is being continually assessed by park management. The decision to open or close a canyon is due to many factors such as positive testing, likelihood of total immersion, probability of accidental ingestion, and other considerations.


    We do not have a timeline for when specific closed resources will reopen. Check the website for updates: https://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/online-wilderness-permits.htm
  14. jsb4g

    jsb4g

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    Probably an overstatement, but 2020 seems to be following Murphy's law pretty closely.
  15. Scott Patterson

    Scott Patterson

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  16. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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  17. 2065toyota

    2065toyota

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    There is risk in virtually all aspects of life. I just feel better knowing that the government is doing what they can to assure my safety.

    What if i wear a mask while hiking the narrows or while doing some canyoneering, that should make me ok
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  18. Scott Patterson

    Scott Patterson

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    So has anyone seen these blooms outside Zion? I assume it's more widespread than just Zion.
  19. jsb4g

    jsb4g

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    Last summer, it also occurred in the Escalante.
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  20. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Is there anything that can make you ok?
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