For the second time this week, 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. Melville Pond in Portsmouth is added to the list of waters including the Ten Mile River, Central Pond, Turner Reservoir, and Omega Pond in East Providence that are experiencing the algal blooms which may form naturally occurring algal toxins. People should avoid recreational activities such as swimming, boating, or fishing in these areas until further notice. 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. In addition, people should not drink water or eat fish from any of these areas.
DEM has confirmed the presence and predominance of blue-green algae species in Melville Pond. These algae, also referred to as cyanobacteria, have the potential to form the naturally occurring algal toxins, Microcystin and Anatoxin.
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 drinking from, 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. People are cautioned that toxins may persist in the water after the blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.
With the weekend forecast of warmer temperatures and sunshine – conditions favorable to algae growth – DEM warns that blue-green algae blooms may be evident in other freshwater lakes and ponds in the state. 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.
DEM advises that the algae bloom and the natural production of the toxin will likely resolve itself in a few weeks. DEM will re-sample the waters and inform the public when algae levels are low. At that time, it will be safe to resume recreational activities in these areas.