Second pond off limits in Easthampton

EASTHAMPTON — Lower Mill Pond should be avoided by people and pets after the discovery of what health officials believe is another unsafe algae bloom. 

The body of water joins nearby Nashawannuck Pond in being deemed temporarily unsafe due to what appears to be a heavy presence of cyanobacteria, or algae, cells that exceed state guidelines. Bri Eichstaedt, the city’s health agent, said she was notified of the bloom in Lower Mill Pond by a resident after health officials posted warnings about Nashawannuck Pond’s algae on Facebook late last week.

She said the Easthampton Health Department sent photos of Lower Mill Pond’s bloom to the state Department of Public Health on Sunday, and the department responded late that night advising the city to post warning signs around the pond that the water should be avoided.

“It was pretty obvious that it was the same as Nashawannuck, but I didn’t feel comfortable making that call,” Eichstaedt said Tuesday. 

According to the city’s health department, algae blooms can be caused by warm weather, sunlight, excess nutrients in the water such as fertilizer and human/animal waste, stormwater runoff or failing septic systems.

The state Department of Public Health will conduct follow up samplings at least one week after the algae was identified. Only after two samples from two separate weeks test below the recommended guideline levels of algae cells will the advisories be lifted, according to the city’s health department.

“At a minimum it will be closed for two weeks,” Eichstaedt said of the ponds.

Eichstaedt said local health officials will reassess on Wednesday whether algae levels appear to be subsiding in either of the ponds. She said they will not request the state to test the water until it becomes visibly clearer.

There are many potential health effects from exposure to the algae, such as skin and eye irritation, gastrointestinal symptoms, asthma-like symptoms or even neurological damage. But small children and pets are especially susceptible to toxins, the statement said. Livestock and pet deaths have been known to occur from algal toxins, and dogs should be rinsed if they come into contact with an algae bloom, according to the city’s health department. Swimming, fishing, kayaking and boating should all be avoided. 

“We’re just trying to be overly cautious to the public,” Eichstaedt said. “As the city, we want to notify them and educate.”

On Tuesday afternoon, what appeared to be bright green algae could be seen floating on top of Nashawannuck Pond in multiple areas, both near the boardwalk and farther away near the American flag hanging over the pond. 

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com.

Author: Going Green

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