ZION NATIONAL PARK, Utah (ABC4 News) – Utah health department officials are warning visitors and their pets to stay out of the Virgin River in Zion National Park after toxins from a harmful bacteria were found in the water.
On Saturday July 4, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Water quality and the National Park Service received a report of a dog dying an hour after swimming in the North Fork area of the Virgin River.
According to the DEQ and DWQ, the dog, a Siberian Husky, was playing in the river and was “snapping” at algae growing on the rocks prior to its death.
Within an hour, the dog exhibited symptoms consistent with possible exposure to cyanobacteria toxins produced by the harmful algae blooms. The dog could not walk, was in pain, and was having seizures.
The DWQ says results from water samples taken in the river show a concentration of the toxic algae greater than 55 micrograms per litre. The health threshold is 15 micrograms per litre.
Zion National park officials warn visitors not to swim or submerge themselves in the river and to keep animals out of the water, and especially not allow pets to drink from the river. Signs will be posted in the park.
Water from the Virgin River is used for culinary use in Springdale, but is treated before human consumption. To date, water officials say no toxins have been found in the water after it has been treated.
Advanced treatment technology removes cyanotoxins out of water. The town of Springdale will continue testing the water after it’s treated to ensure it is safe to drink.
For concerns about possible human exposure, call your local physician or the Utah Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. For concerns about pet exposure, call your local veterinarian.
The public is encouraged to call the DEQ if they see an algae bloom. The number for the Division of Environmental Quality is 801-536-4123. The latest samples from the Virgin River can be seen at habs.utah.gov.