The SIC’s environmental health department has received notification from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) that there is blue-green algae in the Loch of Voe.
Notices are being posted next to the loch and exit burn today (Friday) and the nearby public toilets, as well as in local shops and public houses, warning that contact with algal scum should be avoided.
According to the council, blue-green algae exist in fresh waters in Great Britain and throughout the world; they are noticed when their concentrations increase to form “blooms” and when they form scums – looking like blue-green paint – or when they collect on the shore line.
Some blue-green algae may give rise to adverse medical effects – but not always. Effects on people coming into contact with toxic scums include skin rashes, eye irritations, vomiting and diarrhoea, fever and pains in muscles and joints.
Toxic algae have caused deaths of livestock and dogs. The treatment of water supplies removes blue-green algae and additional treatment may be applied to destroy or remove toxins should they arise. The actions currently taken are precautionary.
The behaviour of algae is erratic and the level of its toxicity can fluctuate; it can appear one day, be dispersed by the wind and mixing and re-accumulate at any time.
Adjoining landowners have been advised of the situation at the Loch of Voe, as has NHS Shetland. At this stage, the SIC states, there is no adverse effect on water supplies.