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DEM: Toxic Green Waters Endanger People, Pets

{CRTEDIT: EPA] Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, produce toxins that are hazardous to humans and animals.
{CRTEDIT: EPA] Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, produce toxins that are hazardous to humans and animals.
{CRTEDIT: EPA] Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, produce toxins that are hazardous to humans and animals.

PROVIDENCE — Bright green water or dense floating algal mats on the water’s surface, causing ponds and lakes to look like green paint, thick pea soup, or green cottage cheese, aren’t just weird, they’re signs of toxic blooms of cyanobacteria, also called blue-green algae.

The Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Management advise people to avoid contact with seven waterbodies because of risks from the growths, which mostly occur in the summer and fall, but can occur at any time of year. All recreation, including swimming, fishing, boating, and kayaking, should be avoided. People should not ingest water or eat fish from these waters.

The agencies have warned Rhode Islanders of the growths in six ponds and lakes and one reservoir in four communities:

  • Newport: lmy Pond,
  • Portsmouth: Sisson Pond.  Though this pond is a drinking water source maintained by Newport Water,  the utility’s treatment removes harmful bacteria before the water is delivered to customers.
  • Cranston: JL Curran Reservoir,
  • Providence: Mashapaug Pond.
  • Three lakes located within Roger Williams Park in Providence are also part of the warning: Pleasure Lake, Roosevelt Lake and Elm Lake.
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Blue-green algae can produce toxins, including microcystins, harmful to humans and animals.

Contact with water containing cyanobacteria causes irritation of the skin, nose, eyes, and/or throat. Common health effects associated with ingesting water containing algal toxins include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Rarer health effects include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. Young children and pets are at a particular risk for health effects associated with algal toxins. People who have had contact with water containing the cyanobacteria and experience these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.

If you come into contact with the water:

  • Rinse your skin with clean water as soon as possible
  • When you get home, take a shower and wash your clothes.
  • If your pet comes into contact with the water, immediately wash your pet with clean water.
  • Do not allow your pet lick algae off its fur.
  • Call a veterinarian if your animal shows any symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning, including 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.
  • Toxins may persist in the water after the blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.
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To report suspected blue-green algae blooms, contact DEM’s Office of Water Resources at 222-4700 orDEM.OWRCyano@dem.ri.gov  If possible, send a photograph to accompany the reported condition.

Author: Rob Borkowski

Rob has worked as reporter and editor for several publications, including The Kent County Daily Times and Coventry Courier, before working for Gatehouse in MA then moving home with Patch Media. Now he's publisher and editor of WarwickPost.com. Contact him at editor@warwickpost.com with tips, press releases, advertising inquiries, and concerns.