In a release sent Monday, the state’s Deaprtment of Health (DOH) and Department of Environmental Management (DEM) advised people to avoid contact with Spectacle Pond, located off Route 2 near Cranston Stadium, due to a bacteria bloom found Friday.
The bacteria, which is a blue-green algae that causes the entire pond to become a murky green color, can cause a variety of harmful health effects, according to the DOH.
The release said when human or animal skin comes in contact with the algae it can cause irritation, which can affect the nose, eyes, and throat as well. If the water is ingested, it can cause stomachache, diarrhea, vomiting and nausea. And rarer health effects can include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage, the DOH warns.
Gail Mastrati, a spokesperson for the DEM, said that this algae, which is properly called cyanobacteria, occurs naturally in all ponds, and prefers warm weather, lots of sunlight, slow-moving water, and lots of nutrients. She said that Spectacle Pond has previously had advisories issued for the same reason in 2011, 2014, and 2017.
Mastrati said that the DEM has observed boating on the pond and residents who use the pond to canoe or kayak. Though there are no public fishing access or boat ramps, she said, there “is evidence around the pond indicating that fishing occurs.”
She said that the cyanobacteria can lower the oxygen in the water, which is harmful is to fish and other aquatic life, though she said the effects on fish are “not fully understood,” like the harmful effects on humans and other animals are.
Joseph Wendelken, spokesperson for the DOH, said that his team does samples of water bodies all around the state and found the bacteria growth last Friday. He said it’s the first time it’s been found at Spectacle pond this year, but it occurs “quite regularly” around other water bodies in Rhode Island.
Wendelken said coming in contact with the water can be a health hazard, especially if someone has underlying medical conditions, and people who are experiencing symptoms should contact their health care provider. Likewise, people who live nearby should get their pets to a veterinarian if they become sick.
“If you come into contact with the water, rinse your skin with clean water as soon as possible and, when you get home, take a shower and wash your clothes,” said the release. “Similarly, if your pet comes into contact with the water, immediately wash your pet with clean water. Do not let the animal lick algae off its fur. Call a veterinarian if your animal shows any symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning, including loss of energy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, or any unexplained sickness that occurs within a day or so after being in contact with water.
He did say that although there’s no cure to the illness caused by the algae, it is a temporary thing and does go away.
Mastrati said that the DEM has completed a water quality restoration plan for the pond called a “total maximum daily load” that helps restore phosphorus, which is the nutrient typically of most concern for cyanobacteria blooms, back into the pond.
She also said that Spectacle pond is among 18 bodies of water that have active recreational health advisories in the state at this point.
Mastrati said that cyanobacteria blooms typically subside when cooler weather and shorter days begin in the late fall, around late October into early November, but it could persist further if the next months are mild-weathered.
Until it’s completely clear, people are advised to avoid contact with Spectacle pond and all other bodies of water that exhibit bright green coloration and dense floating algae mats on the surface.