CLARKSBURG — Open for swimming for the first time since 2014, the pond at Clarksburg State Park is not exactly brimming with residents taking a cool dip.
But there's something else in the water: leeches.
Michael Case, western region director for the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, confirmed that there are some leeches in the pond, but he emphasized that the number has been greatly reduced since an invasive weed species was removed.
Leeches are fat worms that live in wet places and fastens themselves onto the bodies of humans and animals to suck their blood, according to the Cambridge Dictionary.
Swimming at the park was offered starting June 19 after being forbidden by state officials since 2014. Soon after the swimming began, people began commenting on social media about the presence of leeches. Despite very warm air and blue skies, the beach was deserted on Monday.
Fish such as pumpkinseeds are in the water and are leech predators, Case said, but they are not munching the leeches quickly enough to eliminate them completely.
There is hope, Case said, but it will take time to rid the pond of the unwelcome invaders.
White sand, which is known to repel leeches, will be used to try to eliminate them from the fresh water site, he said.
About 20 truckloads of the sand from Specialty Minerals are being brought to a Pittsfield site for storage until the end of the swim season. Once the park is closed for the season, water levels will be lowered slightly and equipment will be brought to the water's edge to dump and spread the sand along the pond bottom, Case said.
"We can't use any chemicals of any kind in the water and we can't put equipment into the water either," he said. "We have to wait until the swimming season is over and we have to make sure we get the sand into the water. We can't put it on the beach, it won't do any good."
Case acknowledged that he visited the beach recently.
There were few people at the park and no one was in the water, he said.
Leeches are not dangerous to humans, he added.
"There really aren't that many there and you can just flick them off if one attaches to you," he said. "They aren't dangerous, but I agree that they are gross."