Rhode Island DEM, Health Issue Advisory for Five Urban Ponds

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People Advised to Avoid Recreational Activities in and to Keep Pets Away from Slater Memorial Park Pond in Pawtucket, Mashapaug Pond, Roger Williams Park Ponds in Providence, and Spectacle Pond and J.L.Curran Reservoir in Cranston

The Department of Environmental Management and the Department of Health (HEALTH) are advising people to avoid recreational activities in waters affected by blue-green algae blooms. Slater Memorial Park Pond in Pawtucket, Mashapaug Pond and Roger Williams Ponds in Providence, and Spectacle Pond and J.L. Curran Reservoir in Cranston, are experiencing algal blooms which discolor the water, giving it a characteristic green tint. These blooms may form naturally-occurring algal toxins. People should avoid recreational activities (like swimming, boating, or fishing) in these waters until further notice and be careful not to ingest water or eat fish from any of these ponds. Pets can also be affected by exposure to the algal toxins and thus owners should not allow pets to drink this water or swim in the water. It is likely that the recreational advisory will remain in effect through the end of the year.

The algae blooms in four of the five ponds were discovered during screening-level monitoring conducted at 11 ponds over the past week by a DEM contractor evaluating the extent and presence of blue-green algae blooms. The bloom in the fifth pond, J.L. Curran Reservoir, was reported to DEM by a volunteer with the Pawtuxet River Authority. DEM is conducting analysis of water samples from these five ponds to determine the predominant types and number of blue-green algae present, and measure the levels of algae toxin in the water. No evidence of blue-green algae blooms was observed in the other seven ponds monitored (Fenner Pond in Cranston, Lake Washington in Glocester, Warwick Pond in Warwick, Valley Falls Pond in Central Falls and Lincoln, Breakheart Pond in Exeter and West Greenwich, Trustom and Barber Ponds in South Kingstown). These 11 ponds were selected for the screening-level monitoring based upon historic incidences of blue-green algae blooms and or elevated water column concentrations of phosphorus or chlorophyll a.

The toxins can cause harm to humans and animals. Skin rashes, and irritation of the nose, eyes, and or throat are common side effects that result from skin contact with water containing algal toxins. If water containing algal toxins is ingested, health effects include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Young children and pets are more at-risk to algal toxins than adults, since they are more likely to drink contaminated water. Other health effects, which are rarer, include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. People who have been swimming or fishing in these areas and experience those symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

If you come into contact with the water, rinse your skin with clean water as soon as possible, and when you get home, take a shower and wash your clothes. Similarly, if your pet comes in contact with the water, immediately wash it off with clean water. Do not let the animal lick algae off of its fur. Call a veterinarian if your animal shows any of the symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning, which include loss of energy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, or any unexplained sickness that occurs within a day or so after being in contact with water. People are cautioned that toxins may persist in the water after the blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.

It is possible that blue-green algae blooms may be affecting other areas of Rhode Island, or may occur in the future at one of the seven ponds monitored where there was no evidence of a bloom. People are advised to avoid contact with waters which exhibit the following conditions: bright green coloration in the water or at the water surface and/or dense floating algal mats that form on the water's surface. The water may look like green paint, thick pea soup, or green cottage cheese. To report suspected blue-green algae blooms, contact Brian Zalewsky in DEM's Office of Water Resources at 222-4700 ext. 7145.

More information on blue-green algae blooms can be found at HEALTH's website: www.health.ri.gov/healthrisks/poisoning/cyanobacteria/index.php, and DEM's website: www.dem.ri.gov/programs/bnatres/agricult/pdf/algaepostr.pdf.