State, Hudson, Marlborough officials to discuss preventing giant algae blooms

MARLBOROUGH – After high cyanobacteria algae levels closed two local beaches temporarily during the peak of summer, conservation officials are investigating how to avoid a repeat.

In early August, Memorial Beach in Marlborough and Centennial Beach in Hudson were closed for three weeks after health officials found the cyanobacteria algae levels in the Fort Meadow Reservoir were nearly double the state’s recommended guideline. It was the first time the beaches had been closed due to high algae levels, said Priscilla Ryder, Marlborough’s conservation officer.

The beaches, which are both on the reservoir, reopened at the end of August when algae levels dropped.

State officials determined the algae wasn’t toxic, but exposure to the water can cause skin and eye irritation and gastrointestinal problems in humans and pets. Liver and neurological problems can occur if water with toxic algae is swallowed. Small children and pets are more susceptible to the effects of the toxins, officials said.

With neighbors of the reservoir recently voicing concerns about the safety of the water, conservation and health officials in Marlborough and Hudson agreed to meet with representatives from the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and state Department of Public Health Jan. 29 in Hudson to investigate ways to prevent the algae from blooming.

“We’re not sure how to address the situation,” said Lee Thomson, chairman of the Fort Meadow Commission. “We’re not sure if there is even anything we can do about it. The concern is there may not be anything we can do about it. This is new territory for us.”

With the potential for some algae blooms to form toxins, Thomson, who lives beside the reservoir, said many neighbors are concerned about health problems that may occur if they came in contact with the water.

“That was worrisome to everyone,” he said.

Algae blooms, which can multiply quickly, form in fresh water when blue-green algae proliferates and forms scum or mats in the water, typically after periods of warm weather and sunshine in the summer and fall. Algae blooms can also form if there are excess nutrients in the water, according to the state Department of Public Health.

“It’s all new to us,” said Ryder. “We’re not sure why we had it. Sometimes it blooms, sometimes it doesn’t. It might have been a fluky thing.”

With the warm weather last summer, Ryder said many Bay State communities dealt with high cyanobacteria algae levels.

“It was sort of prevalent around the state,” said Ryder.

In 2012, Shrewsbury closed Jordan and Dean Park ponds to swimming after high levels of cyanobacteria algae were found. That year, a handful of other communities, including Newton, Brewster,

Halifax, Woburn, Barnstable, Eastham, Mashpee, North Andover, Winchester and Hanson had similar advisories in place.

 

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