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Harmful Algal Blooms at Stockton’s Waterfront: Cyanobacteria at Dangerous Levels 

For Immediate Release: 7/22/20

Contact: Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, 209-479-2053, [email protected]

Stockton, CA – 
Last week, Restore the Delta published photos of Harmful Algal Blooms along Stockton’s downtown waterfront, area sloughs, and other river confluences into the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary and reported our finding to the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board for investigation. 

Yesterday, the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (CVRWQCB) confirmed, through water quality testing for both water and scum samples, the presence of microcystins above the recreational health trigger thresholds.  The report from the Water Boards linked below documents the unhealthy bacteria levels found in water and scum samples on July 14, 2021, and the health trigger measurement levels used to evaluate public health risk. Dr. Meredith Howard, Environmental Program Manager with CVRWQCB indicated to Restore the Delta in an email that follow up would begin with the local health department, which in this case is the San Joaquin County Department of Public Health.

Click here for the report issues from the State Water Resources Control Board.

Click here for a link to the photos of the waterways referenced above.

Restore the Delta’s executive director, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla noted:

”This is the first year that we have seen HABs spread up from the Stockton waterfront into the San Joaquin and Calaveras Rivers, especially so early in the summer and fall months when harmful algal blooms resurface and spread. This growing public health threat is the result of deteriorating Delta conditions: warmer water temperatures, lack of adequate flow, and pollution run-off into the estuary.  

“HABs are a threat to public health, a desirable waterfront economy, Delta farming, endangered fisheries, and wildlife.  They are also a heightened public health threat to the extensive homeless community living adjacent to these waterways – a population that is also struggling with a COVID-19 outbreak. San Joaquin County has failed to move with urgency to shelter homeless people during the pandemic who are now living adjacent to dangerous water ways. ”

Mycrocystins if ingested at high enough levels can kill pets and cause liver damage in preschool children.Exposure for adults through swallowing water or breathing droplets can cause abdominal pain, headache, sore throat, vomiting, dry cough, and other health problems.

Barrigan-Parrilla added, “We continue to call on Secretary Wade Crowfoot of the California Natural Resources Agency and Governor Newsom to prioritize finding and funding solutions to the HABs problem within San Joaquin County (which has the largest environmental justice community as percentage of population in California), and for the Bay-Delta estuary at large. Present plans for the Voluntary Agreements, which will reduce through Delta flows, and the Delta tunnel, which will remove needed freshwater flows from the Sacramento River, will only worsen the existing HABs problem in San Joaquin County, if the HABs problem is not tracked, sourced, and mitigated once and for all.  We have been asking for help in this area for the last eighteen months, and nothing has changed.  In fact, the problem is getting worse, and the Delta is being ignored by the Newsom Administration except for plans to extract even more freshwater flows. We are worried and profoundly disappointed. This is too much on top of our local COVID-19 surge.”