Water at the popular Damariscotta Mills swimming area turned blue-green with algae late last week, and signs warning of a cyanobacteria outbreak advised swimmers to swim at their own risk at both the bridge area and swimming beach.
The swimming hole was empty on Monday, Aug. 9, despite sunny warm conditions.
The toxicity and danger to the public of the Damariscotta Mills algae bloom is not yet known.
Midcoast Conservancy Executive Director Pete Nichols said they are continuing to monitor the lake for cyanobacteria. They are reaching out to the towns of Newcastle, Nobleboro and Jefferson to coordinate efforts.
Midcoast Conservancy is ordering a rapid test for cyanobacteria. “That will allow us to have a short turn around,” Nichols said.
Watershed Coordinator and Damariscotta Lake Lead Patricia Nease took samples and had Bigelow Labs run tests on Tuesday, Aug. 10. Midcoast Conservancy does not yet know the concentrations of the toxin.
Damariscotta Lake had an outbreak of cyanobacteria last summer, but not at the Mills.
Small amounts of cyanobacteria are normally present in fresh water bodies. Warm waters with little water flow, fertilizer leaching into the water, or septic system failures are typically associated causes of algae blooms.
Nichols said recent rains in July and early August caused nutrient rich run-off into the lake, which in all likelihood led to the algae bloom.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website, cyanobacteria can be harmful to people, animals, or the environment if it produces toxins, become too dense, uses up the oxygen in the water, or releases harmful gases.
People and animals can become sick if they swim, wade, or play in or near contaminated water; eat contaminated fish or shellfish; or use contaminated drinking water.
Symptoms vary. If the toxin is ingested, symptoms range from nausea, vomiting and diarrhea to jaundice, blood in urine, headache, fever, loss of appetite, and muscle twitching.
Skin exposure can cause a rash, itching, blisters and conjunctivitis.
Inhalation of gases produced by a severe bloom can cause respiratory issues.
Dogs are particularly susceptible to cyanobacteria, which can cause loss of appetite and energy, vomiting, stumbling and falling, foaming at the mouth, diarrhea, excessive drooling, tremors and seizures, according to the website.
For the most recent news on cyanobacteria in Damariscotta Lake, go to Midcoast Conservancy’s Damariscotta Lake Watch Facebook page.
According to the page, Midcoast Conservancy has received multiple reports of algae blooms from Kieve to Damariscotta Mills. Anyone that spots an algae bloom can call the office at 389-5151 and leave a message.