Georgica Pond Closed Due to Toxic Algae Bloom

Georgica Pond's headwaters near Osteria Salina in Wainscott earlier this spring. The presence of cyanobacteria, which can have harmful health affects in both humans and animals, led to the closing of the pond on Friday. David E. Rattray

The East Hampton Town Trustees ordered Georgica Pond closed on Friday after getting a report of toxic blue-green algae there from Suffolk officials.

According to a statement issued Friday afternoon by the Suffolk Department of Health Services, researchers from the State University of New York Stony Brook detected the presence of cyanobacteria in Georgica and at Maratooka Pond in Mattituck.

Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, skin and eye irritation, allergic reactions, and breathing problems. The Health Department has advised the public not to or swim or wade in contaminated waters and to keep pets and children away until the warnings are lifted. In the case of accidental contact, the county advises that people rinse themselves off with clean water immediately and seek medical attention if symptoms arise.

"Though blue-green algae are naturally present in lakes and streams in low numbers, they can become abundant, forming blooms in shades of green, blue-green, yellow, brown or red. They may produce floating scums on the surface of the water or may cause the water to take on paint-like appearance," the county said.

Georgica Pond has frequently been closed due to cyanobacteria in recent years. A private group got permission in 2016 to remove algae from the pond in an effort to improve its water quality and reduce the chances of more toxic blooms.

In May, a number of Georgica area homeowners asked the town trustees to open the pond to the ocean temporarily because they believed the conditions were right for a cyanobacteria bloom. Their request was not acted on due to the presence of nesting piping plovers, a protected species, and a longstanding jurisdictional conflict between the trustees and state authorities.

A list of affected water bodies is available at the New York Department of Environmental Conservation's harmful algal bloom notification page at http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/83310.html

Georgica will remain closed until algae levels drop.