- Associated Press - Thursday, August 4, 2016

BURLINGTON, N.D. (AP) - A large section of the Souris River has turned red, likely due to an organism feeding on fertilizer runoff.

State Health Department officials inspected the affected section of river in the Burlington area in northern North Dakota and determined that the phenomenon is due to a small organism called euglena sanguinea, the Minot Daily News reported (http://bit.ly/2azXkpO ).

“We’re not real familiar with them,” said Mike Ell, a water quality expert with the department. “What we know is that they occur in water enriched with nutrients.”

The main source of those nutrients is believed to be fertilizer runoff from farmland and lawns.

Such outbreaks are rare, according to the Health Department. The organism can produce a toxin, but Ell doesn’t think the red Souris presents a serious health risk to people. The toxin can be deadly to fish but there is no evidence of a fish kill.

The red water might disperse or it might spread. The organisms “will flourish and die and flourish again. With little or no flow in the Souris, they are probably growing pretty well,” Ell said. “It would not be surprising to see it farther downstream, in the Minot area.”

The Health Department will continue to monitor the river.

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Information from: Minot Daily News, http://www.minotdailynews.com

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