Toxic blue-green algae

Valley Breeze & Observer January 21-27, 2021

By JACQUELYN MOOREHEAD, Valley Breeze & Observer Staff Writer

SMITHFIELD – Toxic blue-green algae should be a thing of the past in Georgiaville Pond thanks to a donation that will bring an aerating water fountain to a stagnant section of the pond.

Last Friday, members of the Georgiaville Pond Association donated $7,000 to Smithfield along with a design plan for an aerating water fountain to be placed approximately 200 feet from the public beach at the pond.

Smithfield will pay the remaining $1,000 for the water fountain, which will cover installation and maintenance, said David Prairie, secretary of the Georgiaville Pond Association.

Prairie said nothing has been able to combat the combination of beating sun onto stagnant parts of the water where bacteria from goose poop and rotting fallen leaves feed the algae. He described the “cul-de-sac” area of water near the public boat launch and surrounding the nearby islands as a place with little water flow.

“The solution is to aerate the water and get it moving to stop the algae growth,” he said.

“In the winter, it always ices over first and in the summer, it gets direct sun and is hot. That’s where the algae starts,” Prairie said.

Sometimes the algae stays in that area of the pond, Prairie said, but not always. Strong winds can push the algae across the lake, and spread the toxic growth throughout the pond.

Prairie said the association approached North Providence about its multiple water fountains on the Wenscott Reservoir and their efficiency before moving forward in Smithfield.

“They helped us weed out the bad systems and find the right one for us. They gave us the sense of feeling confident about this option,” Prairie said.

In North Providence, the fountains have been credited with helping to keep algae levels down and the beach at Notte Park open during the summer. They also add to the beauty of the park, say officials in the neighboring town.

Formed in 1978, the Georgiaville Pond Association collects dues from residents around the pond to purchase safety equipment, maintain buoys and damns, and now to provide a solution to the blue-green algae blooms.

Prairie said the association does as much as it can to prevent the algae, including lowering the pond in the winter months to kill off weeds and growth, addling goose eggs to prevent population growth, and doing frequent water tests.

“A goose can make up to two pounds of waste a day. That’s what the algae eats,” he said.

In the past 20 years, in conjunction with the RIDEM, the Georgiaville Pond Association has addled around 500 eggs. Addling eggs means covering them in oil to prevent hatching.

People experience side effects from contact with blue-green algae, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, headache and dizziness. It is especially unsafe for children and can cause neurological or liver damage in animals.

Georgiaville Pond is frequently closed during the summer due to blue-green algae blooms, closures enforced by the town and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

Prairie said the air in the water will most likely be good for fish and other wildlife living inside Georgiaville Pond.

“You bet your boots it will be in this spring,” Prairie said, or as soon as the weather will allow.

A large aluminum ring will surround the fountain to discourage water enthusiasts from taking selfies or getting too close to the fountain and causing damage to it, Prairie said.

Smithfield Recreation Director Bob Caine said lifeguards will be on duty in the summer to help keep the fountain safe during the day, and a camera facing the fountain on the concession stand will keep watch over it at night.

“This has long been a place where people come to make trouble at night. I’m always watching those cameras,” Caine said.

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