Toxic algae forces cancellation of Portland regatta

Thu Sep 25, 2014 5:00pm EDT
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By Courtney Sherwood

PORTLAND Ore. (Reuters) - A regatta fundraiser that was expected to draw hundreds of crew-rowing competitors to downtown Portland this weekend has been canceled because of the presence of toxic blue-green algae on the Willamette River, organizers said on Thursday.

"It was too risky, there are too many people out there with compromised immune systems," said Row for the Cure event co-chair Juanita Chambers.

Many of the roughly 600 athletes registered for the event, a fundraiser for the Susan G. Komen breast cancer nonprofit, are themselves cancer survivors, she said.

The Oregon Health Authority last week declared a 10-mile stretch of the Willamette, which runs through downtown Portland, as hazardous for swimming, boating or fishing after tests showed algae toxins at 50 times safe levels.

"The algae is still visible in areas, although it's certainly less intense than it was last week," agency spokesman Jonathan Modie said on Thursday.

No additional tests will be conducted until the greenish sheen can no longer be seen on the river surface, he added.

Exposure to toxic blue-green algae can cause rashes and stomach problems and is especially dangerous to dogs.

"The advisory definitely will remain in place over the weekend, so we're still encouraging people to avoid all contact with the water," Modie said.   Continued...

Boaters make their way along the Willamette River during a heavy morning fog in Portland, Oregon February 17, 2007.  REUTERS/Richard Clement