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Worcester’s Indian Lake Closed Indefinitely over Health Concerns

Saturday, July 12, 2014

 

Indian Lake

The Worcester Division of Public Health has issued a public health advisory for Indian Lake due to the observation of high levels of a certain type of algae.

The algae – cyanobacteria (blue-green) – are known to cause a variety of negative health effects to both humans and animals. Because of this, the lake has been closed indefinitely until the water quality improves.

“Public Health is advising the public to be aware of harmful algae blooms at Indian Lake so that the necessary precautions can be considered in order to protect themselves, family members and pets from exposure of these unhealthy waters” said Michael P. Hirsh, Acting Commissioner of Public Health.

Individuals and their pets are encouraged to stay away from the lake until further notice, until the City has time to properly work with environmental health specialists in order to examine the water quality to determine the length of the closure.

How the Algae Grows

These naturally-occurring algae grow best when aided by certain environmental conditions such as warm weather, sunlight, and excessive nutrients in the water. These nutrients usually come from human related sources.

 Phosphorous and nitrogen – which are commonly found in fertilizers, storm water runoff, wild waste, and other agricultural activities – are two key nutrients that aid in the growth of cyanobacteria.

Cyanobacteria

The city says that as of right now, Indian Lake is the only body of water in the city to have this problem. The city is going to continue to monitor all bodies of water to make sure that the problem doesn’t spread.

Health Concerns

The primary reason why the city is concerned and has shut down the lake is because of the variety of health concerns that can be raised by the algae. When the algae blooms, they release toxins which can be harmful when exposed to humans and animals.

The city says that until algae levels are lowered, citizens should not swim in the lake, swallow water, fish, or allow their pets in the water.

Potential health effects include skin and eye irritation, gastrointestinal symptoms, and liver or neurological damage. Inhaling water spray infested with algae can cause asthma-like symptoms. Small children and pets are more susceptible to the effects than adults.

“Exposure to blue-green algae can cause rashes, skin and eye irritation, allergic reactions, gastrointestinal upset, and other effects,” says the Center for Disease Control on their website.  “At high levels, exposure can result in serious illness or death. Depending on the particular cyanobacterium, and the amount to which one is exposed, blue-green algae have the potential to cause a variety of adverse health effects, including liver toxicity (e.g., Microcystis aeruginosa) and neurotoxicity (e.g., Anabaena circinalis).  Microcystin toxins may also promote tumor growth.”

 

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