What’s going on in Kern County’s water?

Just one week after county health officials issued a no-contact advisory for bacteria-laden waters in Lake Ming, on Tuesday they posted a cautionary notice due to the discovery of potentially harmful blue-green algae in parts of Isabella Lake and the Kern River.

According to a news release from the Kern County Department of Public Health Services, the state found cyanobacteria algae in three distinct areas, miles apart:

• Kissack Cove on the south shore of Isabella Lake, between Paradise Cove Campground and Mountain Mesa;

• Keyesville Recreation Area, on the Kern River south of Isabella Lake; and

• The Calloway Weir area of the Kern River, west of the Chester Avenue Bridge in Bakersfield.

Recent sampling by the California Water Resources Control Board indicated the presence of the algae, which sometimes appears as bright green in the water with streaks that look like spilled paint. The algae blooms can also appear as blue-green, white or brown foam, scum or mats that can float on the water and accumulate along the shore, officials said in the release.

Exposure can cause rashes, skin and eye irritation, allergic reactions and gastrointestinal symptoms. At high levels, exposure can result in serious illness or death, according to the California Department of Public Health. For animals, the toxins can cause diarrhea, vomiting, convulsions and death.

Warning signs will be posted around the affected areas, officials said, and will include the following warnings:

• Stay away from scum, and cloudy or discolored water.

• Do not use these waters for drinking or cooking. Boiling or filtering will not make the water safe.

• Do not let pets or livestock go into or drink the water, or go near the scum.

• Do not eat shellfish from these waters.

• For fish caught nearby, throw away guts and clean fillets with tap water or bottled water before cooking.

• Call your doctor or veterinarian if you or your pet get sick after going into the water.

Michelle Corson, a spokeswoman for public health, said Tuesday county officials were awaiting further results from testing done by the state to determine whether the three algae blooms are indeed producing the suspected toxins. If the answer is yes, the cautionary notice could be upgraded, Corson said.

According to the California Water Quality Monitoring Council, cyanobacteria exists in almost all waterways and water environments. At normal levels the bacteria are beneficial, performing many roles that are vital to ecosystem health.

However, when conditions are optimal, including light and temperature, levels of nutrients, and lack of water turbulence, cyanobacteria can quickly multiply into a bloom.

No illnesses have been reported in connection with the algae blooms, Corson said.