Toxic bacteria found in Georgica Pond in East Hampton and Sagg Pond in Sagaponack have prompted officials to warn the public against any water contact. High levels of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, were discovered by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation in the ponds on August 17. Cyanobacteria can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, skin, eye, or throat irritation, allergic reactions, or breathing difficulties.
In 2012, a dog died after it lapped up water from Georgica Pond. A toxic algae bloom was the suspected culprit.
Cyanobacteria has also been detected in Lake Agawam in Southampton, Fresh Pond on Shelter Island, Mill Pond in Water Mill, Roth Pond at SUNY Stony Brook, Laurel Lake in Laurel, Maratooka Lake in Mattituck, and Wainscott Pond, according to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.
The photosynthetic bacteria naturally occur in freshwater and brackish lakes, ponds, and streams, but temperature spikes and other environmental factors can lead to their sudden multiplication. Water bodies in which the cyanobacteria levels are high can be green, blue-green, yellow, or red. Sometimes the water appears as if paint has been spread on it. Not all forms are a human or animal health risk, but many can produce toxins, some have as many as three separate toxins.
According to the University of California Museum of Paleontology, cyanobacteria fossils are the oldest known, dating back 3.5 billion years.
To report a suspected blue-green algae bloom other than at a Suffolk County-permitted bathing beach, contact the Division of Water at New York State DEC at 518-402-8179 between 8 AM and 4 PM or anytime via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.