A cyanobacteria bloom, also known as blue-green algae, has been confirmed in the Hatfield Point region by the Belleisle Watershed Coalition.
A water test on Monday confirmed high levels of anatoxin-a, at 2.5 parts per billion, along the Hatfield Point Trail behind the cemetery. Colin Forsythe, the executive director of the non-profit group, said there should be no trace of the toxin in a normal reading.
Forsythe said anatoxin-a is also known as "very fast death factor."
If consumed, he said it can have a serious impact on the central nervous system.
"In significant quantities the toxin can kill you in minutes of respiratory paralysis," he said. "So if you ingested too much of it, you'd lose your coordination, have muscle spasms, convulsions, and eventually you wouldn't be able to breathe."
Forsythe said he doesn't know anyone locally who has died from anatoxin-a, but it has been responsible for the death killed several dogs in the province.
Veterinarian Shanna-Lynn Neily at the Kennebecasis Valley Animal Hospital said ingesting the toxin can quickly become life-threatening for dogs.
"In some cases, if they've had very small amounts ... with rapid intervention they can do quite well, but usually if they've had higher doses, it's within a few hours that they can go into shock and they can die," she said.
Neily recommends pet owners avoid areas known to have cyanobacteria blooms.
"If you know there's an algae bloom in the area, don't take your animal to that water source. It's just it's not worth it to risk it," she said. "Go to water sources that we know are safe."
If a pet does consume cyanobacteria, Neily said it's important to get them to a veterinarian as quickly as possible.
More toxic than July's bloom
Forsythe said most often, cyanobacteria blooms in New Brunswick appear on the surface and look like little green flecks of paint. The current bloom however, is benthic, meaning it's along the bottom of the riverbed. He said it looks like clumps of dark green, brown, or even black vegetation that will become lighter in colour once it washes ashore and dries.
These mats are about half a kilometre away from where another cyanobacterial bloom was confirmed by the coalition in July. This is the only new cyanobacteria bloom reported by the province in 2022.
Forsythe said the July bloom contained different toxins.
"We did not detect anatoxin-a there. We detected low levels of a toxin called microcystin," he said. "That would likely not be fatal to any adults, but potentially pets. Most adults would experience nausea, gastrointestinal pain, stuff like that."
Anatoxin-a is fairly rare in New Brunswick at this time, but Forsythe expects it will become more common.
"Human-induced climate change … is allowing us to have warmer temperatures and more frequent intense rain events that help to create the perfect environment for cyanobacteria blooms," he said.
Forsythe said the Belleisle Watershed Coalition will continue to monitor the Hatfield Point water until it tests negative.