Possible algae bloom prompts health advisory for Pontoosuc Lake

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PITTSFIELD — Avoid contact with water at Pontoosuc Lake until further notice, officials say.

The mayor's office issued a warning Friday afternoon of a possible algae bloom at the popular lake, which has shores in Pittsfield and Lanesborough.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health found "visual evidence" of harmful algae in the water, but more formal testing is pending.

Meantime, officials say to abstain from swimming, fishing and boating in the lake.

Health effects from contact with toxic blooms vary, depending on the type, but can include skin and eye irritation, as well as gastrointestinal symptoms, according to the state's website.

Ingesting large amounts of toxins might cause liver or neurological damage. Small children and pets are especially vulnerable to their effects.

"It's pretty serious," said Roberta McCulloch-Dews, the city's director of administrative services. "You don't want to be in the water if it's an algae bloom."

The lake's waters will be tested early next week for a cyanobacteria bloom, she said.

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The Friends of Pontoosuc Lake Watershed group is helping the city spread the word. The organization's president, Lee Hauge, couldn't be reached, but its vice president, Michele Rivers-Murphy, said the group likely would send out an email blast and would reach out to fishing groups to notify them.

"It's just precautionary and preliminary," she said.

She said the city also had placed signs near the boat ramp.

Rusty Anchor owner Scott Graves said about 6:30 p.m. Friday that he could see dozens of people out on the water. He hadn't heard anything about the algae bloom, he said.

"I don't know, and everybody here doesn't know," he said.

Algae blooms can darken the water's appearance and thicken its consistency, and also can give the water a bad odor or taste.

Blue-green algae flourishes in hot weather and nutrient-laden water, according to a news release from the mayor's office.

"As the region experiences more hot days and heavy rainstorms, harmful algal blooms will become more common," it said.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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