California Needs Action on Toxic Algal Blooms Polluting California’s Waters

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), Chair of the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee, introduced a two bill package 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 algal 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.”  

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, forcing intermittent closures to public lake access.

"Local public environmental health officials welcome this effort to improve coordination and guidance around the identification of and response to harmful algal blooms,” said Justin Malan, Executive Director of the California Association of Environmental Health Administrators, “Because it is often difficult to identify which algal blooms may be toxic, there is a need for more rapid testing of these waters and better public notification when they do occur. With the necessary guidance and resources, local jurisdictions can play an important role in this public health service."

AB 834 will create a program to coordinate prevention, detection, and response to freshwater algal blooms, while AB 835 requires California to set actionable standards for when toxins from these blooms become a threat to public health.

“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 and began working on the harmful algal bloom issue last year. “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 834 and AB 835 have not been referred to policy committee.