Empty beaches and boats, anchored dockside - that’s the scene at what is now a very quiet Coventry Lake.
The Eastern Highlands Health District (EHHD) is cautioning people against lake activities after discovering a dangerously high level of blue-green algae.
“We believe that this algae bloom has reached what we call a category three advisory level,” said EHHD Director of Health Robert Miller.
The algae, also known as Cyanobacteria, can most commonly cause skin irritation and gastrointestinal health problems. In the most extreme cases, it could cause damage to the nervous system and liver. It is also potentially fatal for dogs.
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“Because dogs have a tendency to lick their fur afterwards, they’re at greater risk of higher doses,” Miller explained.
The advisory was issued Friday just as residents sought relief from a scorching summer heat wave.
“This is our go-to to stay cool. So now, we’ve got to find someplace else to go,” said Coventry resident Jason Patch.
The health district said chemical treatment to rectify the situation is unlikely because that involves securing a permit and that would take too long. So, the approach is to wait for the algae to subside, a minimum of three weeks.
“Water temperatures need to cool down a bit before the cells really start to die off and recede,” Miller said.
University of Connecticut Marine Science Professor Dr. Senji Lin said this type of algae thrives in warm water and feeds off high levels of nitrogen. He said lawn fertilizers that seep into lakes usually help these algae spread.
“The nutrients usually come from human activities,” Lin said.
Lin said the likelihood of this becoming an annual occurrence will depend on the climate.
“Overall, if we do not take care of the environment more effectively, it’s going to increase,” he said.
Bob Mazzone has lived on the lake 29 years and said he sat on his dock this weekend in disbelief.
“Middle of the day on a Saturday in July and there was nothing [on the lake]. It was eerie,” Mazzone said.
Mazzone, like others who spoke with NBC Connecticut, is disappointed and hoping for a quick improvement.
“This is a major part of our life,” Mazzone said. “We suffer through the winter for our few months. Now they’re gone.”
The health district will be watching the lake closely, to see if a floating scum develops. They say that is the most toxic stage of the algae and will be announcing a way for residents to report that, in the coming days.