Toxic algae growing in York River State Park

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(Courtesy York River State Park)
(Courtesy York River State Park)

People and pets are prohibited from entering the water at Woodstock Pond in York River State Park due to an outbreak of harmful algae.

According to a news release from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the pond is growing a toxic blue-green algae called Microcystis aeruginosa, which can cause rashes and other illnesses upon contact.

The pond, located near the park’s visitor center on York River State Park Road, will be closed until algae levels return to normal.

“We do not want the public recreating on Woodstock Pond because of the health risk,” said John R. Gresham, Jr., Education Support Specialist at York River State Park. “But we would like visitors to rent canoes and kayaks or to bring their own paddle craft and launch into Taskinas Creek during our hours of operation with confidence.”

According to park staff, the annual Estuaries Day on August 27 will not be affected by the algae bloom.

Such algal blooms occur when warm water and nutrients combine to make conditions favorable for algae growth, the release stated.

DCR urges park visitors to take measures to prevent illness by:

  • Avoiding contact with any area of the pond where water is green or an advisory sign is posted.
  • Preventing children and pets from drinking from natural bodies of water.
  • Keeping children and pets out of the water and quickly wash them off with fresh water after coming into contact with algae. If you or your animals experience vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, malaise, or rash, after swimming in or near an algal bloom, seek medical or veterinarian care.

According to the release, park staff will continue to monitor water quality in the pond and it will reopen following a minimum of two consecutive weeks of acceptable levels of algae. For more information contact the Virginia Harmful Algal Bloom Hotline at 888-238-6154.

This post has been updated to include comment from York River State Park.