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Virgin River Cyanobacteria

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by NM Ben, Jul 14, 2020.

  1. NM Ben

    NM Ben

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    Think this could have any implications on wet canyons in Zion once things open back up?

    https://kslnewsradio.com/1929056/vi...tive-for-cyanobacteria-that-produces-toxins/?

    "SPRINGDALE, Utah — Zion National Park is warning visitors not to swim or wade in the Virgin River after the water tested positive for a toxin caused by cyanobacteria.

    The Southwest Utah Public Health Department issued a public health warning about cyanobacteria in the Virgin River.

    According to the Environmental Protection Agency, cyanobacteria or blue-green algae often occurs in calm and nutrient-rich water. Some species of cyanobacteria produce toxins that can make people and animals sick. Algal blooms in Utah lakes forced health officials to issue several warnings to state residents in the past few years.

    Signs at Zion National Park warn visitors not to swim, submerge themselves, or allow pets to get in the water or drink it.

    In a news release, the National Park Service said it first learned about the cyanotoxin in the Virgin River because a dog died July 4, 2020, about an hour after swimming in the river’s North Fork.

    “Prior to its death, the dog exhibited symptoms consistent with possible exposure to cyanobacteria toxins — those produced by harmful algal blooms. The dog could not walk, was in pain, and was having seizures,” the statement said.

    Water samples taken from the river showed concentrations of anatoxin-a, the specific cyanotoxin involved, tested higher than 55 micrograms per liter in at least some of the samples.

    “The health threshold for primary recreation from the Utah Department of Health and DWQ [Division of Water Quality] is 15 micrograms per liter,” the statement continued. “Additionally, harmful cyanobacteria that produce anatoxin-a were identified in multiple areas of the North Fork of the Virgin River.”


    Health officials urge all visitors to the area to follow these guidelines:

    • Do not swim in the North Fork of the Virgin River, and do not put your head underwater
    • Do not drink the water from the river, even if using a filter or purifier
    • Avoid any areas with visible algal scum
    • Keep pets away from the water
    The Narrows hike, popular with many Zion visitors, requires hikers to wade through the water. The hike is still open, but park officials urge caution while following those guidelines."
  2. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    No. not really.

    The North Fork of the Virgin River flows from Navajo Lake (kinda sorta) through The Narrows, then through the Park, Springdale, Rockville and Virgin etc. eventually ending up in Lake Mead. The poisoning event took place in the Park near Canyon Junction, 8 miles below The Narrows. Evidence suggests that the algae bloom in question exists somewhere near(ish) to Canyon Junction. Further water tests are underway.

    As the bloom is generally caused by warm water that is fairly still, it seems unlikely that the infection is as far north as The Narrows. Also, hiking in the Narrows rarely involves swallowing significant quantities of river water, and humans rarely snap at algae in the water.

    In any case, it is rather unlikely that any technical canyons would have the algal bloom in them, or above them. Perhaps the exception is Kolob/Narrows, however, there are plenty of people monitoring Kolob Reservoir, and it's high altitude probably precludes algal growth.

    Tom
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  3. hank moon

    hank moon kinetically bulbous

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    Kind of a snap

    IMG_3106.
  4. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    There has been considerable confusion about the cyanobacteria contamination in Zion. Here is what I have determined from the information available:

    1. Is the Narrows safe to filter water to drink?

    A1. No. Easy enough to carry your water for the day, and it is cool in The Narrows so most people do not drink all that much water. Bring plenty of water with you from the start of your hike. There is a water bottle filling station at the trailhead.

    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 potable. (See below)

    2. Any water sources along other trails?

    A2. Trails in Zion do not have water sources (with a few exceptions). Some of the trailheads have civilized water from which you can fill your water-carrying bottles.

    There is a bloom of cyanobacteria in the river (the North Fork) between the Lodge and the Narrows that makes the river water (below the Narrows) unsafe to drink even with filtration, and makes the river unsafe to play in for humans and pets. The water in The Narrows might be contaminated with cyanobacteria. 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.) Cyanobacteria have been detected in the river above The Narrows, though this does not mean that the water in The Narrows IS hazardous... but it does mean it CAN be hazardous.

    https://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvi...ver-and-the-streams-of-zion-national-park.htm

    ZION Park Information, NPS 10:10 AM 8/3/2020

    The Microcoleus tychonema cyanobacteria has now been detected in headwaters of the Narrows. This bacteria is a natural part of the ecosystem that is experiencing a bloom that poses a hazard to health. Swimming, submerging, and hiking in the Virgin River is not recommended at this time. People are still going into the Narrows; it is not recommended, but we cannot stop visitors from entering the river.

    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.
    It doesn't appear that we have taken samples at Chamberlain Ranch. For specifics on where the toxin is most present, check out this interactive map. (update - two samples have now been taken at Chamberlain Ranch, both are positive for cyanobacteria).

    Thank You, Zion National Park
    https://deq.utah.gov/water-quality/north-fork-of-the-virgin-river-algal-bloom-monitoring-2020
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  5. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    A friend asked about hiking in the Narrows and in the East Fork (Parunaweap) as an overnight trip.

    Reading up on it, as I have been prodded to do, leads to:

    A. Cyanobacteria are a natural part of the environment and usually present in small quantities everywhere.

    B. 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. But it is potent.

    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. My prejudice says "with sunlight" but I have not seen that in the literature... but where blooms take place are places with plenty of sunlight ie, not narrow canyons. 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, it seems like this indicates conditions might be right for CB colonies too.

    E. The East Fork is largely spring fed. In the fall, in low water condition, it almost dries up near the Barracks Ranch. By the time you get to Misery Canyon, 3/4 of the water is from springs. Still, I would not draw drinking water from the main stream until below the waterfall, and would filter vigorously. Rock Canyon has a small stream that seems good.

    F. 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.

    G. Maybe it goes without saying, but your water filter does not remove the toxin. Even a purifying water filter does not remove the toxin (as far as I can tell). Boiling may not remove the toxin.
  6. 2065toyota

    2065toyota

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    Is CB in any way related to Covid 19
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  7. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Yes.

    C19 is only one of many plagues that YWH has visited upon us for (whatever your favorite failing of the human race is). Algal Blooms is another.

    T
  8. Gooseberry

    Gooseberry

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    I was considering backpacking in Deep Creek over the long weekend. The positive tests at Chamberlain give me pause as there are cows up on and below Webster”s Flat. I assume this is causally related to the extreme heat we have suffered through in the region this year. This gives me pause. I don’t remember any specific large springs in there, although there must be several. I would perhaps have to filter the water from Deep Creek. No way it’s been tested. Very difficult to get in there. Damn. Another plan bites the dust. Quite a year, but I suspect it foreshadows a new normal.
  9. The Dread Pirate Roberts

    The Dread Pirate Roberts

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    I am planning a trip down the East Fork of the Virgin River in a couple weeks and I haven't seen anything indicating that the East Fork has had a CB problem. Has anyone heard anything about CB in the East Fork?

    Also we are going to try to avoid getting water from the main river. We will grab water form Rock Canyon but doesn't French Canyon normally have some flow coming out of there also?

    Thanks!!!
  10. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Yes, and there are other spring-fed streams flowing in once in a while.

    Tom
  11. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    I wrote this for another forum mostly about hiking in The Narrows - enjoy (ish):

    Cyanobacteria update Sept 7, 2020

    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.

    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
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2020
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