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Update from RIDOH and RIDEM on Health Advisories on Rhode Island Bodies of Water

Health advisories lifted for five bodies of water

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) are lifting today the public health advisories on Warwick Pond in Warwick, North Easton and South Easton Ponds in Middletown, and two lakes in Roger William Park in Providence Cunliff Lake and Elm Lake.

Advisories for these waterbodies were put in place in August and September due to the presence of blue-green algae blooms, also known as cyanobacteria.

Contact with and recreational activities on Warwick Pond, Cunliff Lake, and Elm Lake may now be resumed. Since Rhode Island law prohibits people and animals from swimming and bathing in ponds that are drinking water sources, those activities are not allowed in North Easton and South Easton Ponds, which are owned and operated by Newport Water. In addition, Newport Water prohibits fishing, swimming, and boating in these reservoirs, as posted.

Other health advisories remain in place, and new health advisories put in place

Because of the continued presence of cyanobacteria, health advisories remain in place for Mashapaug Pond and the Roger Williams Park Japanese Gardens in Providence; Melville Pond, Sisson Pond, St. Mary's Pond, and Lawton Valley Reservoir, all in Portsmouth; and Watson Reservoir in Little Compton.

Health advisories are also being issued for Pleasure, Polo, and Willow Lakes in Roger Williams Park in Providence and Paradise Pond in Middletown as a result of newly confirmed cyanobacteria blooms.

General information about cyanobacteria and Newport Water

Cyanobacteria can produce toxins that are harmful to humans and animals. Contact with water containing cyanobacteria can cause irritation of the skin, nose, eyes, and/or throat. Ingestion of water containing cyanobacterial toxins can cause stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Other health effects, which are rarer, include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. Young children and pets are at greater risk than adults, due to their size and because they are more likely to drink contaminated water.

Five of the waterbodies affected by ongoing cyanobacteria blooms (Sisson Pond, St. Mary's Pond, Lawton Valley Reservoir, Watson Reservoir, and Paradise Ponds) are drinking water sources maintained by Newport Water. Even when a cyanobacteria bloom is present in its source reservoirs, the treated water that Newport Water distributes to homes is safe. Treatment removes harmful bacteria, including cyanobacteria, before the water is delivered to customers. Newport Water follows all state and federal drinking water testing and monitoring requirements to ensure that treatment processes are working correctly and the water is safe to drink. Drinking untreated water from any pond at any time is not recommended.

Newport Water treats water from nine different surface reservoirs or ponds located on Aquidneck Island, in Tiverton, and in Little Compton. Residents and visitors on Aquidneck Island and in Tiverton and Little Compton can help protect these valuable drinking water supplies by adhering to prohibitions on swimming and other recreational activities on these reservoirs, as posted. While public health advisories are currently in effect for these five reservoirs, the other Newport Water supply ponds also routinely experience cyanobacteria blooms. Most blooms occur in the summer and fall, but they can occur at any time of year.

The public is reminded to avoid contact with any body of water in Rhode Island that is bright green or has a dense, floating algal mat on the water's surface. Blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) blooms may look like green paint or thick pea soup. Toxins may persist in the water after a blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.

People who experience the symptoms associated with cyanobacteria exposure and who have been swimming or fishing in water, or drinking untreated water from a waterbody with a confirmed or suspected cyanobacteria bloom, should contact their healthcare providers. People who come into contact with potentially affected waters should rinse their skin and wash their clothes with clean water as soon as possible. People observing pets exhibiting adverse health symptoms after contact with potentially affected waters should contact their veterinarians. Pets who have come in contact with potentially affected waters should not be allowed to lick water off their fur and should be rinsed with clean water as soon as possible.

To report suspected blue-green algae blooms, contact RIDEM's Office of Water Resources at 222-4700 or DEM.OWRCyano@dem.ri.gov.

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