3 things to know about the rise of cyanobacteria in Mass. ponds and rivers

Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, blooms on the surface of the Charles River. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, blooms on the surface of the Charles River. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

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We finally got a good run of beach-worthy weather this summer, but the heat doesn’t make for great swimming conditions everywhere.

You’re probably familiar with the term cyanobacteria by now. Also known as blue-green algae, the toxic blooms have become a regular summertime occurrence in Massachusetts. While the heat may make any local pond alluring, WBUR’s Paula Moura reports the warm weather is contributing to a rise in cyanobacteria blooms across the state, from Arlington to Nantucket to Shrewsbury.

  • An upward trend: The state has issued cyanobacteria advisories for nine ponds this month. That’s a record, topping the previous monthly record of eight set just this past June, according to The Boston Globe. Moura reports climate change is expected to only further fuel this rising trend. Not only does heavy rain carry more stormwater runoff into water bodies, but cyanobacteria grows faster in warm water. “Warmer water coupled with the sunlight in the summer is just a perfect breeding ground for them,” said Lucia Ross, the CMO of Bluegreen Water Technologies, a company that works to reduce cyanobacteria.
  • What’s the worst that could happen? Swimming in water with blue-green algae (and incidentally ingesting it) can lead to stomach trouble, headaches, fever and fatigue. It’s also really not great for pets, which can die if they drink too much of it.
  • How to spot it? State officials stress their advisory list is not exhaustive, so there could be ponds or rivers they’re missing. But as the nickname implies, you’ll notice a green scum on the water’s surface that looks like green paint (similar to the color of pea soup, yet less tasty).
  • Go deeper: Read WBUR’s Barbara Moran’s explainer of everything you need to know about blue-green algae.

The future of the birthing center at Leominster Hospital will be in the spotlight tonight. The state Department of Public Health is holding a public hearing on UMass Memorial Health’s plan to close the center in September due to severe staffing shortages and declining patients.

  • WBUR’s Priyanka Dayal McCluskey reports the decision has triggered a backlash from local nurses and community advocates, who say the closure will force patients in the area to travel too far for maternity services. About 500 births occurred at the maternity ward last year. “Babies’ lives are going to be put at risk,” said Eladia Romero, a leader of the Community United to Save Our Birthing Center coalition. “We should be able to have access to this essential service, which is labor and delivery.”
  • Reality check: While UMass Memorial’s plan must be reviewed by the state, regulators can’t stop hospitals from closing services. The most they can do is require the hospital to submit a plan for preserving access to essential services in the area.

Boston City Councilor Michael Flaherty thinks his colleague Kendra Lara should join him on the way out the City Hall door this year. Flaherty told NBC 10 Boston this weekend he thinks Lara should resign over the criminal charges she faces for crashing a car last month while driving without a license or registration. “The behavior is one of a habitual scofflaw,” Flaherty said. “To go 10 years without a license isn’t a mistake; it’s the middle finger, frankly.”

  • Lara has apologized for the crash and says she does not plan to resign. The first-term District 6 councilor is facing two opponents in her bid for reelection this fall, per the Boston Herald: IT specialist William King and lawyer Benjamin Weber.

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Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



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