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Blue-Green Algae On Brookfield’s Lakes Causes Concerns

Candlewood Lake is experiencing blooms of blue-green algae that can produce toxins.
Candlewood Lake is experiencing blooms of blue-green algae that can produce toxins. Photo Credit: Skip Pearlman

BROOKFIELD, Conn. — The recent bout of very warm weather and the lack of rain have resulted in an early bloom of blue-green algae on Brookfield’s lakes.

This has caused considerable concern, particularly among lakeshore residents and those seeking relief from the heat at public beaches.

There has been increasing news each summer about these algae blooms and the closing of some popular beaches in Connecticut, including Fairfield Beach, which is currently closed, due to the fact some of these algae produce harmful substances called “cytotoxins.”

The Candlewood Lake Authority has the daunting task of testing for blue-green algae toxins and for harmful E. coli bacteria. With 60-plus small shoreline communities on Candlewood alone, their efforts and finances are spread thin.

Larry Marsicano, executive director of the Candlewood Lake Authority, said the issue is a global problem, not just a local one.

"Look at the issues in Florida, and it other areas of the world," he said. "This is not something new, but we are looking and studying the algae blooms in new ways."

One of the new ways is by working with Western Connecticut State University to test all five public beaches, as well as two state lakes.

E. coli testing will continue to be done weekly at the Town Beach at Cadigan Park and at the Candlewood Shores beach.

To date, most of the samples taken at all of the beaches have been coming back way below what the state considers acceptable levels, Marsicano said.

The state threshold is 15 parts per billion. Locally, the test having been coming back at less than 0.1 per billion, he added.

New samples were taken at all of the beaches Wednesday and results should be returned by Thursday, Marsicano said.

He suggests residents stay out of the water if they see a bloom and to keep their pets out of the water also.

The blue-green algae blooms, which have been found on CandlewoodLake and Lake Zoar, appear as a green or blue-green scum on the surface of the water and may extend several feet below the surface. The algae clings to boats, docks, rocks and the shoreline.

Contact with the "blooms" or "cytotoxins," they produce may cause skin irritation on contact or, if released into the air by boat propellers, water skiers or the wind, may cause lung irritation and breathing difficulties. They also may cause abdominal problems if taken in orally, according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

The appearance of these blooms is dependent on heat, humidity, stagnation and the concentration of nutrients such as nitrates and phosphates, which are the direct result of human habitation.

Nitrates leech into the soil from septic systems, while phosphates result from lawn and yard runoff, as the result of expanding fertilizer use. Along with the production of nitrates, potentially harmful fecal bacteria, such as E. coli, may leech into the soils from septic systems, particularly failed or failing systems, said officials with the Brookfield Health Department.

The department said they have been working arduously to reduce the number of such failing systems, particularly along the shoreline of local lakes and rivers.

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