Wakeby Pond Health Advisory

A public health advisory notice posted at Ryder Conservation Lands warns that cyanobacteria is present in the water of Wakeby Pond.

For the first time in its long history of testing the water at public beaches, the town has partnered with an outside agency to help ensure that Cyanobacteria are kept at bay.

The Association To Preserve Cape Cod (APCC) has already begun testing several of the town’s freshwater ponds for the bacteria that can poison humans and animals.

The first testing, which was conducted last Thursday, June 24, showed that there are low concentrations of the ancient organisms in Lawrence Pond, Peters Pond, Snake Pond, Spectacle Pond and Upper and Lower Shawme ponds.

A rating of “low” indicates that the water is generally safe for recreational activities, according to the APCC report.

But that count is subject to daily fluctuations.

Health Director David B. Mason said the town is especially concerned about algae blooms right now because in recent weeks the waters in freshwater ponds have reached higher temperatures than usual.

Mr. Mason tests water temperatures every week and regularly recorded temperatures of 70 degrees recently.

“Usually at this time of year the water temps are in the low 60s,” Mr. Mason said. “It’s getting worse earlier in the year.”

Traditionally, toxic algae blooms have been most common at the height of summer.

Last week, the Sandwich Health Department posted an advisory at Wakeby Pond that cyanotoxins may be present in the water.

The Mashpee Health Department, having found an algae bloom at the state boat ramp, closed its side of the pond to swimming.

Scientists believe Cyanobacteria date back more than 2 billion years, when the Earth’s atmosphere experienced a rise in oxygen levels during the Paleoprotozoic era, according to published reports.

Cyanobacteria, named for their blue-green color, can produce cyanotoxins, which can be fatal to dogs and other animals and can cause serious diseases in humans.

Mr. Mason suggests, as a precaution, that neither pets nor humans ingest pond water—even when counts are low. According to the advisory posted at Ryder Cove, animals should be kept out of the water altogether.

The APCC, an environmental advocacy group that has been active since the 1960s, also has water-testing partnership agreements with several other Cape towns including Barnstable, Falmouth, and Mashpee.

Not all Cyanobacteria are harmful, according to the APCC website.

“Cyanobacteria are commonly found in the phytoplankton community of aquatic ecosystems. They form the base of the food web of freshwater ponds and streams that flow into coastal estuaries and the ocean. The presence of cyanobacteria is natural and important,” the website says.

“However, overabundant cyanobacterial growth (called blooms) and their release of dangerous amounts of cyanotoxins appear to be occurring more frequently. This is due to warming global temperatures and excessive nutrients in our ponds. This excessive growth of cyanobacteria and formation of blooms degrades habitats and damages the environment.”

Mr. Mason said the APCC will test Sandwich’s fresh water ponds six times this summer. That will be in addition to the weekly testing of all beaches—fresh and saltwater—by the Sandwich Health Department, which follows state guidelines and reports to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Mr. Mason has said that town employees working at the ponds, including the lifeguards, have been notified about the Cyanobacteria concerns. If there are sightings of any blooms, the beach staff is authorized to immediately close the beaches.

The health director said Cape health departments, the APCC and the state health department are scheduled to have a meeting in mid-July to discuss Cyanobacteria monitoring programs and to set up guidelines to enable all municipalities to follow the same protocols.

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