The City of Austin has detected concerning levels of a toxin called cylindrospermopsin in Barton Creek at Sculpture Falls, near MoPac and Loop 360. The samples were taken on September 9 after a report of a human illness and results were received on Sept 22. This toxin is produced by certain types of cyanobacteria or blue-green algae. The levels detected were above EPA guidance values for recreational use. People and pets should not ingest or swim in the water. The City of Austin is posting signs at access points to the Barton Creek Greenbelt near Sculpture Falls.
This incident is different from previous incidents of harmful algae in the Austin area in several ways. It is a different toxin with different health effects. The toxins were found in water samples rather than in the algae, which increases the risk of human exposure from recreational use. In addition, the toxin was found at a popular swimming hole in a creek environment, rather than in a lake or reservoir.
Harmful algae may also be present in other Central Texas creeks and lakes. Natural water bodies may also contain microscopic organisms such as bacteria and parasites. We advise people and pets to avoid warm, stagnant water. Steer clear of any discolored or foul-smelling water. It is always a good idea to rinse off after being in a natural water body. Avoid swimming for a few days after heavy rainfall when bacteria levels tend to be higher. There can also be physical dangers with uneven depths, debris, slippery surfaces, and strong currents.
Cylindrospermopsin may cause liver and kidney damage. According to the EPA, acute human and animal health effects of exposure to this toxin include:
- Bloody diarrhea
Seek medical treatment immediately if you believe you have been exposed. Please call 3-1-1 to report possible illness in people or pets from harmful algae.
There is more information about harmful algae at AustinTexas.gov/Algae.