6-24-20-Cyanobacteria in Hollis silverlake060820.jpg

A cyanobacteria bloom's blue green color is obscured by yellow pollen on the shoreline of Silver Lake in Hollis earlier this month. Cyanobacteria produce toxins that can irritate skin and cause serious acute and chronic health problems in people and animals. (COURTESY PHOTO)

CONCORD — As the beaches at the state’s freshwater lakes and ponds are opening back up, the state Department of Environmental Services reminds the public to practice safe swimming and to be vigilant for potential health concerns, such as cyanobacteria.

This summer, DES will focus on monitoring, assessing and responding to cyanobacteria blooms. The Beach Inspection Program will not be sampling freshwater beaches regularly for fecal bacteria, as it has in the past, due to lab capacity and logistical challenges posed by the pandemic.

The Beach Program will, however, maintain an active monitoring program that will be able to respond in cases when public health risks arise and can ramp up at areas with a history of bacterial problems.

Beach owners and municipalities can still collect water samples themselves and submit the samples to a number of available labs for analysis.

In addition, illness report forms are available for reporting bathing-related illnesses.

The public is encouraged to submit this form to the Beach Program if someone becomes ill after swimming in one of the state’s waterbodies.

The public is also strongly encouraged to keep an eye out for cyanobacteria in state waterbodies. As the water temperatures warm, some lakes and ponds may display bright green surface scums or dingy green water throughout the water. These are signs that a cyanobacteria bloom is present.

Cyanobacteria can produce toxins that are harmful to humans, pets and livestock.

Toxins can cause acute health effects, including irritation of skin and mucous membranes, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. In some cases, short-term exposure can also result in nervous system interference including tingling, burning, or numbness sensations.

Prolonged exposure can also lead to liver or kidney problems.

Cyanobacteria blooms are extremely unpredictable, occurring sporadically anywhere or anytime. Therefore, as a precaution, the Beach Program recommends against swimming in areas of lake or ponds with a suspected cyanobacteria bloom and restricting pet or livestock access.

Anyone who sees what they believe is a cyanobacteria bloom is asked to report it via text or phone call to (603) 848-8094 or email to HABS@des.nh.gov. It is helpful if you include a photo of the bloom.

A response to a reported potential bloom will typically occur within 24 hours. Bloom alerts or lake advisories will be issued following confirmation of the condition and will be posted on the DES website.

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