Toxic algae found in popular Charlotte park pond

Pet owners across the country are blaming this toxic algae for their death of their dogs after swimming through the algae-filled waters.
Updated: Aug. 16, 2019 at 10:17 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The Park Road Park pond in south Charlotte tested positive for toxic algae, Mecklenburg County officials confirmed Friday. The testing was performed Thursday.

Three dogs died after swimming through the blue-green algae in a pond in Wilmington just last week, bringing focus to the toxic algae.

Park and recreation is posting signs at Park Road Park and other properties to warn pet owners to keep their animals out of the water. Park Road Park is located off Park Road near Fairview Road.

The algae is there year round, but it’s only a problem in the summer.

“What happens is you get hot temperatures, there’s a lot of sunlight, you don’t get a lot of wind. The algae starts to grow and the concentration gets so much that it can become toxic,” Mecklenburg County Director of Nature Preserves, Chris Matthews, said.

Water officials warn that coming into contact with the algae is toxic and if it’s ingested by an animal or child, it’s usually lethal.

“Do not allow pets to enter or drink from any pond, and keep dogs on a leash to minimize the chance of coming into contact with the water,” county officials say. Creeks and streams with flowing water are typically not impacted by toxic algae, park officials say.

Park and Recreation and Storm Water Services are now testing ponds in the following areas for the presence of the toxic blue-green algae:

  • Freedom Park
  • Hornet’s Nest Park
  • Marshall Park
  • Beatty Park
  • Elon Park
  • Reedy Creek Park
  • McAlpine Park
  • Clarks Creek Nature Preserve
  • Ribbonwalk Nature Preserve
  • Sherman Branch Nature Preserve
  • Davie Park
  • Idlewild Park
  • Ezell Farm Park

According to the North Carolina Department of Environment Quality, one neighborhood pond in also Mooresville tested positive for the algae.

Rusty Rozzelle is the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Water Quality Program Manager and said deaths caused by the algae are unusual. In his 40 years doing water quality, he said he couldn’t remember a pet’s death in Mecklenburg County. But, regardless, said pet owners and parents should always be on the lookout for the algae.

The best way to spot it is it’s green color and ‘slimy’ consistency that sits on top of the water. But the algae isn’t always visible in large clumps so Rozzelle said to be careful with any water that sit still like a pond or smaller lake. He said still water and hot temperatures are the perfect breeding ground for the algae.

The Fly Away Geese company, which uses dogs to safely and humanely get rid of geese populations, decided to stop using their dogs near bodies of water because of the blue-green algae risks.

“It’s not worth your pets life to put them in a pond that’s got that stuff in it," said Lydia Ryan of Fly Away Geese.

During the summer months when the algae is most present, the company won’t let their dogs swim and instead keeps the dogs on leashes or uses other methods to get rid of the geese.

Water quality experts advise for other pet owners to do the same and wait to let your dog swim until the weather cools off so the algae is no longer present.

Rozzelle said deeper bodies of water and any water that has movement from a current or fountain are usually less susceptible to this kind of algae.

Officials are looking into treatment options.

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