NEWBURY, N.H. (AP) – Some ponds and lakes are off limits to swimming because of algae blooms or bacteria from animal waste, though a state expert said Tuesday that this year has seen an average number of beach closures.
People have been warned since the weekend to stay out of the water at Sunapee State Park and Griffin Beach on Webster Lake in Franklin because of high levels of fecal bacteria, probably caused by waste from geese or other warm-blooded animals. Sonya Carlson, beach program coordinator for the state’s Department of Environmental Services, said there have been six beach advisories and one lake warning to this point.
Other swimming holes are bedeviled by blue-green algae blooms — called cyanobacteria — that occur when there is too much phosphorous in the water. A blue-green algae bloom on Lake Erie last week forced officials to issue a drinking water ban for 400,000 people in Ohio.
“Cyanobacteria is in every lake all around the world,” Carlson said. “The problem is when it grows and grows and grows to the point where you can see it.”
It’s hard to tell what conditions will lead to bigger algae blooms though the weather, including rainfall and wind, can play a role. For example, in 2013, heavy rains in June and July likely washed a lot of animal waste into ponds and lakes, pushing up the number of waterholes with high levels of fecal matter.
Carlson’s advice: If you can see those algae blooms, don’t go swimming and keep your pets out of the water.
Coming into contact with the algae can cause skin irritation, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
The state has a regular monitoring program in which 180 lakes are checked for bacteria three times a year. There are an additional handful of lakes that the Army Corps of Engineers monitors, and 15 or so municipalities do their own sampling. Carlson said 16 coastal beaches are tested much more frequently — one to two times a week.
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