The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) has encouraged people to use a mobile app to help protect the local water environment by monitoring blooms of blue-green algae – otherwise known as cyanobacteria.
Named Bloomin’ Algae, the app has been developed by the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH).
It enables users to submit a photo of an algae bloom through a mobile device, along with the location and activities taking place in associated waters,
The submitted records are verified by trained environmental experts, enabling feedback to the app user to verify if it may be blue-green algae or something less harmful, and the appropriate next steps they should take.
NIEA said this will enable experts to respond faster to any signs of excessive algae and issue public warnings more efficiently. UKCEH said it will try to provide feedback to people submitting reports within two days.
The app also provides a view of submitted records on regional maps.
Blue-green algae can occur naturally in lakes, ponds, canals, rivers and reservoirs. Unlike other types, if it becomes too abundant it can pose a health risk to people, pets and wild animals who come into contact or ingest it.
It can cause skin rashes, eye irritations, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever and muscle and joint pain, and has been attributed to the death of dogs, birds, fish and livestock in parts of the UK.
The app is free to download from Google Play and the App Store.