PITTSFIELD, Mass. – The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has identified visual evidence of algae in Pontoosuc Lake that may exceed the department’s guidelines for recreational waterbodies in Massachusetts. Guidance from the state’s Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Environmental Health has prompted the Pittsfield Health Department and Lanesborough Board of Health to issue a public health advisory emphasizing that swimming and boating is not advisable until test results for presence of a cyanobacteria bloom are available and can be confirmed early next week; until this determination, the advisory for no swimming and boating in the lake is in effect, stated the city’s Public Health Director Gina Armstrong.

As of Thursday, July 25, the state’s Department of Health has advisories listed for eight harmful algae blooms in the state, from Cape Cod to central Massachusetts.

Per recommendations from the state’s Department of Public Health:

- People are advised to avoid contact with the water in the affected area. When in doubt, it’s best to keep out.

- Individuals should not swim, paddle, boat, or fish in any section of the waterbody where the water is discolored or where you see foam or mats of algae on the water’s surface.

- People should rinse off with fresh water immediately if they or their pet comes into contact with the water. If they believe they or their pet are experiencing any adverse health effects, they should contact their doctor or veterinarian immediately

According to Marc Nascarella, chief toxicologist for the state’s Department of Public Health, blue-green algae flourishes in hot weather and nutrient-laden storm water. As the region experiences more hot days and heavy rainstorms, harmful algal blooms will become more common.

Algae blooms can change the water’s appearance from slightly discolored to resembling pea soup or thick paint. Blooms frequently appear blue or green but could be another color, such as brown or red. You cannot tell if a bloom has toxins by looking at it. Algae blooms can also give the water a bad odor or taste.

(press release sent from the City of Pittsfield for online and on-air use)