Toxic Algae Pollute California’s Waters

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), the Chair of the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee, introduced AB 2053 today to strengthen California’s management of harmful algal blooms, which release toxins in recreational lakes and drinking water reservoirs.

"These toxic blooms afflict every region of the State. In Alameda County alone, at least three lakes are currently impaired. Since 2017, parks in my districts have seen several algae blooms" said Assemblymember Quirk, "It’s time we protect Californians and our environment by stepping up our capacity to prevent and mitigate these polluting and harmful blooms."

Huge numbers of toxic cyanobacteria turn Lake Chabot greenAB 2053 would create a taskforce to coordinate the State’s research and management of freshwater harmful algal bloom. These blooms produce a variety of toxins – including a liver toxin (microcystin), and a neurotoxin (anatoxin-a, which has the nickname Very Fast Death Factor because of its acute toxicity). At least three dogs have died after swimming in Lake Chabot’s compromised waters, where toxic algae have bloomed almost uninterrupted for several years.

These blooms are a growing concern for regional parks because their number and length are increasing. "Toxic algal blooms are a result of changing weather patterns and a serious issue for the Park District," said Robert E. Doyle, the General Manager of the East Bay Regional Parks District (EBRPD), "This national phenomenon has negatively impacted EBRPD’s lakes’ water quality, forcing intermittent closures to public access. We look forward to working collaboratively with Assemblymember Quirk and other agencies to share best practices for the mitigation and prevention of these toxic blooms in California’s waters."

"Climate change seems to be boosting the harmful algal bloom problem, and we must improve our efforts to understand and manage its effects," said Assemblymember Quirk, who has worked on climate change issues since the 1970s when he first worked for NASA. "It is crucial to ensure that Californians are not exposed to algal pollution when drinking water from their faucet or going for a swim in their local lake."

AB 2053 will be eligible to be heard in policy committee in March.