RICHLAND — Warning signs are going up at access points along the Columbia River near Tri-Cities after reports of four dogs dying and two more getting sick after being in the water.
The Benton-Franklin Health District started receiving reports early Monday about dogs sickened from what appears to be toxic algae, or cyanobacteria, in the river.
As the district posted warnings at boat launches in northern Richland, more reports started coming in about other sick animals.
Health officials are investigating the deaths of four dogs between Sept. 12-14 and two others that were sick earlier in the month.
The district is continuing to warn about toxic algae blooms at places where people can get into the water in the Tri-Cities area, health district Senior Manager Rick Dawson said during a news media briefing Thursday morning.
He said there may be a risk for people and animals going into the river right now.
They are going downstream through the Richland parks, including Howard Amon and Leslie Groves, and have posted additional notices at other spots along the river.
“We anticipate that it’s going to continue to take a few days,” he said. “We will continue adding signs, as well as adding signs in additional languages.”
The symptoms and the speed of getting sick appear to be consistent with toxic algae, but the health district is still working on confirming that’s what happened.
“We’re working with some veterinarians trying to collect some samples from the ill animals to see if we can do some tracing that way,” Dawson said.
They’ve also taken three water samples which have been sent to a King County environmental lab. They hoped to get back the results late Thursday or Friday.
Additional samples were being taken along the river as they get more information about possible locations.
“However, based on what we’re seeing in the reports that we’re getting we want to make sure that we warn the public that there may be a risk going on with the Columbia River right now,” he said.
Drinking water source
The primary source of drinking water for the Tri-Cities is the Columbia River. Dawson said the water is being tested for toxic algae both when it’s taken from the river and after it’s treated.
The state Department of Health is working with the district to make sure the water systems remain safe.