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Lynnfield officials caution residents to keep pets out of Pillings Pond

James Mamos, a resident of Lynnfield for 44 years, takes his daily walk around Lynnfield's "hidden jewel," Pillings Pond. (Spenser R. Hasak)

LYNNFIELD — Public health officials are cautioning residents to keep their dogs from wading in Pillings Pond following recent reports of toxic blue-green algae blooms.

Outbreaks of cyanobacteria have been found in several Massachusetts communities. The Center for Disease Control said toxic blooms often form in late summer or early fall, where warm, slow-moving waters gain nutrients from sources such as fertilizer runoffs or septic tank overflows.

These toxins can hurt animals if they drink the water or lick it from their skins, or if it enters their bodies through open wounds.

While Lynnfield does not routinely test for these blooms, the town contracts with Solitude Lake Management to treat Pillings Pond in the summer to prevent dangerous blooms from occurring, according to Emilie Cadermartori, director of Lynnfield’s Planning & Conservation Department. 

She said Solitude reports pet owners do have have to be overly concerned, but they should be aware of outbreaks in neighboring communities and continue to take precautionary measures.

Symptoms of a toxic effect might not be immediately apparent and can take days to appear, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Some of the symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, staggering, drooling, difficulty breathing, or convulsions.

If you suspect your dog has been swimming in a pond or lake with cyanobacteria, rinse the animal immediately with clean, fresh water. Be sure to wear protective gloves while bathing your dog.

If symptoms arise, take the dog to the veterinarian immediately.

The EPA said pets should not drink or swim in water if it looks slimy, or if there is foam or scum on the surface, or if the color of the water seems off.

Blue-green algae is the common name for a type of cyanobacteria, though these bacteria aren’t truly a form of algae. They mostly grow in freshwater lakes and streams, but they are also found in marine waters, such as estuaries. When blue-green algae grow excessively, it’s called a bloom. Usually, the trigger is a combination of sunlight, warm temperatures, and nutrients, generally from lawn and farm fertilizers.

The blooms appear as a thick coating on the water, usually in late summer or early fall. But not all blooms are cyanobacteria. Some are common green algae, which are not toxic.

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