AS the summer season gets underway, NHS Fife is issuing a reminder to people to be on the lookout for blooms of potentially hazardous blue-green algae in a series of water features in the Cowdenbeath-Lochgelly area.

Blue-green algae, also known as Cyanobacteria, are tiny organisms which develop naturally in lochs, ponds, reservoirs, rivers and in the sea.

They are a common seasonal occurrence and waters which have been affected by agricultural, domestic or industrial discharges are most at risk of developing the algae.

In still waters, the algae can multiply during the summer to such an extent that they discolour the water making it appear green, blue-green or greenish brown. Shoreline mats of blue-green algae may appear and are usually coloured brown to black. Sometimes a scum may form on the surface of the water. This scum can appear in different places at different times, but is most commonly found near the shoreline.

People and animals can be affected as a result of direct contact with water affected by blue-green algae and NHS Fife is advising the public, especially people undertaking water sports, anglers and dog owners, to be alert to the blooms as temperatures rise.

The local water courses which are being monitored for blue-green algal blooms this summer are: Stenhouse Reservoir, Cowdenbeath Community Woodland Ponds, Jamphlars Pond, Loch Ore and Loch Gelly, along with more than 20 in other parts of the Kingdom

Director of Public Health, Dr Margaret Hannah, said: “Canoeists, wind surfers and swimmers who come into contact with the algal scum or who accidentally swallow affected water can suffer from complaints such as skin rashes, eye irritation, vomiting, diarrhoea, or pains in muscles and joints. These symptoms are usually mild, but in some cases, can be severe.”

“The risk to small animals like dogs is significant over the summer months as they tend to drink more water in the heat and may eat shoreline algal crusts. Dog owners should prevent their pets from coming into contact with water which could be affected.

"Fish caught in waters affected by blue-green algae should not be eaten and should not be fed to pets. Public water supplies are monitored and treated to prevent harmful effects to health due to blue-green algae".

She added: "Where monitoring reveals higher than acceptable levels of algal bloom, warning notices will be posted at the affected waterways. Anyone who finds a loch, pond or river which they suspect is affected by blue-green algae and which is not displaying a warning sign, should contact their local environmental health service".