Toxic Algae in San Francisco

In the San Francisco Bay area, millions of fish carcasses are washing up on the beaches as a result of the toxic algae bloom spreading across this area. This bloom of algae began in July and managed to stretch as far north as the San Pablo Bay, which is roughly 20 miles north of San Francisco, and as far to the south as the coast of San Mateo County. The algae was identified and determined to be a species of algae called Heterosigma akashiwo. The name Akashiwo is Japanese for red tide. 

Microscopic view of green algae

Since this algae bloom has been going on for over a month, the scope and duration of this bloom are unpredictable. Scientists are blaming the spread on treated wastewater which contains nitrogen and phosphorus that is being dumped into the bay by several different treatment centers at a time. 

The public works department in Oakland city located across from the San Francisco bay reported that they were doing their part in dealing with the fish death and handling the algae bloom. Workers were sent to collect fish carcasses and other wildlife floating on the surface of the “mud” while wearing hazmat suits, N95 masks, gloves, and boots. 

This algae bloom is causing the unusually beautiful clear water to look murky and brown, and it’s also killing the wildlife that lives in the bay. The toxic algae is killing most marine life such as shellfish, fish, and crabs. However, it’s not thought to be harmful to humans or household pets. Although it is not toxic, scientists and researchers are advising citizens to avoid swimming in the bay. 

Although the cause of this bloom spreading is not known for sure, researchers believe that waste recycling could help prevent other blooms from spreading and greatly make a difference. 

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