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The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are advising the public to avoid contact with the water in Stafford Pond in Tiverton. This advisory is being issued because high levels of blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, have been detected in the pond.
Contact with water containing blue-green algae can cause irritation of the skin, nose, eyes, and/or throat. If water containing algal toxins is ingested, health effects can include stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Young children and pets are at greater risk than adults, due to their size and because they are more likely to drink contaminated water. Other health effects, which are rarer, include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. People who have been swimming in, or have otherwise been in contact with these ponds, who experience symptoms, should contact their healthcare providers.
Anyone who comes into contact with water that is under an advisory should rinse their skin with clean water as soon as possible, bathe, and wash their clothes. If a pet comes in contact with this water, the pet should be washed with clean water. Do not let the animal lick algae off of its fur. Call a veterinarian if the pet shows any symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning, which include loss of energy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, or any unexplained sickness that occurs within a few days of contact with the water.
Stafford Pond is a source of public water for the Stone Bridge Fire District in northern Tiverton as well as parts of the North Tiverton Fire District. Before being delivered to customers, the water is treated to remove harmful bacteria, including cyanobacteria. The Stone Bridge and North Tiverton Fire Districts follow all state and federal drinking water testing and monitoring requirements to assure that treatment processes are working correctly and the water is safe to drink. Drinking untreated water from any pond at any time is not recommended.
It is possible that blue-green algae blooms may be affecting other waterbodies in Rhode Island. The public should avoid contact with any body of water that is bright green or has a dense, floating algal mat on the water’s surface. Blue-green algae blooms may look like green paint or thick pea soup. Toxins may persist in the water after a blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.
To report a bloom and view current and historical advisories, DEM’s website has more information at: www.dem.ri.gov/bluegreen