Editor’s note: Though Heart Pond is not considered part of Westford, a number of Westford residents live along the western section of the pond.
REGION — The Westford Health Department is urging caution for residents living near Heart Pond due to a recent algal bloom.
The pond is currently closed for recreational use. Health authorities are testing the waters for the presence of cyanobacteria.
Potential for cyanobacterial bloom
Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, occurs naturally in fresh water. Under specific conditions such as warm weather, excess nutrients and sunlight, bacteria can multiply quickly, creating a highly concentrated area, known as a “bloom.” The bacteria can also cause water to appear slightly discolored, cloudy, or resemble paint while emitting an unpleasant odor.
When cyanobacteria cells die, they release cyanotoxins, which can be harmful to humans and animals if ingested.
Ingesting cyanotoxins can potentially cause gastrointestinal and neurological damage if ingested. If inhaled, toxins can cause asthma-like symptoms. In Massachusetts alone, these blooms have caused 389 cases of human illness between 2016 and 2018, according to Bureau of Environmental Health data.
The Department of Public Health recommends families and their pets wash themselves with tap or bottled water if contact occurs. If water is ingested by a family member or pet, DPH recommends contacting a physician or veterinarian.
Heart Pond is no longer treated for algal blooms and nuisance vegetation, according to the Chelmsford Health Department. The pond will reopen once health authorities determine the pond is safe for use.
This story is developing. It will be updated as more information becomes available.
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