About Amy Umble:
Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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Water advisory issued for Aquia Creek; county park closed to swimming

Sunbathers will still be able to enjoy Aquia Landing, but the county has closed the park to swimming. (Photo by Robert A. Martin)

The Virginia Department of Health is advising people and their pets to avoid contact with the water in some sections of Aquia Creek.

The department issued the advisory last night because of the presence of a type of algae, microcystis aeruginosa, that produces a harmful toxin.

 Because of the advisory, Stafford County closed its Aquia Landing park to swimming this morning. The park is still open, but county officials are asking people not to swim in the water. 

Gary Switzer, environmental health manager for the Health Department, said this morning that the algae is common in the fresh waters of Virginia.

“In this case the concentration is higher than what’s normal,” he said.

People who come in contact with the algae or the water surrounding it may experience skin or respiratory problems. If the affected water is swallowed, the toxin can produce abdominal pain, jaundice, malaise or vomiting.

“The particular concern is with pets,” Switzer said. “The toxins seem to really affect them. They get it on them, and it can be fatal.”

Switzer said the advisory applies only to those areas of the creek with concentrations of the algae.

“You have to be right adjacent to it or in it to cause problems,” he said.

The algae has a distinctive bright green or fluorescent green color, he added.

“There’s a lot of blue-green algae out there, but this particular type, there’s no mistaking when you see it.”

(Stafford County has posted a notice, available here,  about the algae bloom in Aquia Creek. It also has posted, here, the notice from the Virginia Department of Health.)