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Pontoosuc Lake Still Under Health Advisory
05:28PM / Friday, September 30, 2022
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Local officials are reminding the public that the health advisory issued Sept. 10 regarding a potential harmful cyanobacteria bloom in Pontoosuc Lake is still in effect and continued caution is advised.
 
Although results from analysis of samples taken from the water column are within the acceptable range for all water activities, the presence of an intermittent scum necessitates continuation of the alert.
 
Public health officials from the city of Pittsfield and the town of Lanesborough say they are continuing to monitor the levels of cyanobacteria and recommend that residents exercise caution when using the lake. 
 
The scum potentially has high levels of toxic bacteria and could produce adverse health effects on those swimming or with other close water contact. The toxic scum accumulates on the downwind shore, and therefore can come and go at any location. 
 
The recommendation of the state Department of Public Health is "when in doubt, stay out."
 
The city's Public Health Director Andy Cambi says officials just want to ensure the public is kept
informed of these updates.
 
"We want to be proactive in sharing this information with the public so that they can make informed
decisions as to their activities in the lake," said Cambi.
 
Cyanobacteria is aquatic bacteria and is sometimes referred to as blue-green algae, despite being
bacteria rather than algae. Recent test levels show that the bacteria in the water column below the
surface is currently below the standard health-based threshold of 70,000 cells per milliliter which
determines a public health risk. The problem is in the scum at the surface.
 
Since the visual presence of the algae was first observed at Pontoosuc in early September, Pittsfield
and Lanesborough officials, Friends of Pontoosuc Lake and DPH have been monitoring water safety through routine monitoring and analysis.
 
Cyanobacteria levels in the current algae film covering most of the lake can potentially reach the toxicity threshold level and be harmful to humans, pets, and local wildlife. The health effects depend on the duration of the exposure. Skin contact can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, throat and inflammation of the respiratory tract. Swallowing contaminated water can lead to nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea. In severe cases, the liver and nervous system can be affected.
 
Algae blooms can change the water’s appearance from slightly discolored to resembling pea soup or thick paint. Blooms frequently appear blue or green but could be another color, such as brown or red.
 
A bloom's toxicity cannot be determined visually. Algae blooms can also give the water a bad odor
or taste. Per state recommendations from the local boards of health:
 
•  Individuals and pets should not swim where the water is discolored or where foam or mats of algae are visible on the water's surface.
 
• People should rinse off with fresh water immediately if they or their pet comes into contact with the water. If they believe they or their pet are experiencing any adverse health effects, they should contact their doctor or veterinarian immediately.
 
For additional information, contact the Pittsfield Health Department at 413-499-9411 or email health@cityofpittsfield.org. To learn more about this visit, https://www.mass.gov/lists/algae-information.
 
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