The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) advise individuals to avoid contact with untreated waters from St. Mary's Pond in Portsmouth. The pond has experienced an algal bloom which may form naturally occurring algal toxins.
Treated tap water originating from the pond is safe to touch and consume. Existing restrictions prohibit recreational activities such as swimming and boating. People should not eat fish from this body of water.
Pets can also be affected by exposure to the algal toxins and should not be allowed to drink this water or swim in it.
These blue-green algae species, typically referred to as cyanobacteria, have the potential to form the naturally occurring algal toxins known as Microcystin and Anatoxin. Although no toxins have been found at this time, it is important that the public avoid contact with untreated waters.
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. People who have had contact with the untreated waters in this area and have experienced any adverse health symptoms should contact their healthcare provider. People observing pets exhibiting adverse health symptoms after contact with untreated waters in this area should contact their veterinarian.
Algae blooms and the natural production of toxins typically resolve itself in a few weeks. Water will continue to be sampled and monitored. Individuals should avoid contact with untreated waters until further notice.