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Cyanobacteria and Drinking Water Supplies. Cyanobacteria – An Emerging Issue. 2.7 billion years Microscopic Organisms Blue-green Algae Many Different Types Found in All Water Bodies Usually Found in Low Numbers. Increased Concentrations May Create Problem Blooms. Low Water Flow

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Cyanobacteria and Drinking Water Supplies

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Cyanobacteria and drinking water supplies

Cyanobacteria and Drinking Water Supplies

Cyanobacteria an emerging issue

Cyanobacteria – An Emerging Issue

  • 2.7 billion years

  • Microscopic Organisms

  • Blue-green Algae

  • Many Different Types

  • Found in All Water Bodies

  • Usually Found in Low Numbers

Increased concentrations may create problem blooms

Increased Concentrations May Create Problem Blooms

  • Low Water Flow

  • Warm Summer & Early Fall

  • Water Temperatures

  • Nitrogen & Phosphorus Enter the Water

  • Taste and Odor Problems for PWS

  • Public Health Concerns for Humans & Pets

  • Cells May Contain Toxin

Health concerns depend upon

Health Concerns Depend Upon:

  • Type of Exposure

  • Concentrations of Cyanobacteria Species & Toxins Present

Routes of exposure in dw

Routes of Exposure in DW

  • Skin Contact

  • Toxins are released when the cells are ingested

    and they break down in the stomach.

  • After an algae bloom ends and the organisms

    die, the toxins are released into the water where they can be directly ingested.

Symptoms from exposure

Symptoms From Exposure

  • Skin Rash

  • Numb lips

  • Tingling fingers & toes

  • Dizziness

  • Abdominal pain

  • Diarrhea

  • Vomiting

Symptoms from exposure1

Symptoms from Exposure

  • Elevated Levels of Toxin:

    Can cause serious damage to liver, kidneys, nervous system

  • Deaths in Animals (dogs) Have Occurred in Massachusetts At Recreational Waters

Cyanobacteria blooms are tricky

Cyanobacteria Blooms Are Tricky

  • Can occur at different depths

  • Location varies based on wind direction, depth of water body, etc.

  • Confirmation of cyanobacteria can only be made by observing cells under a microscope.

  • Cyanobacteria can develop toxins at any time.

  • Confirmation of toxins in cyanobacteria cells can only be made using analytical laboratory tests.

Cyanobacteria and drinking water supplies

  • There are no uniform procedures for sampling, performing cell counts, or treating cyanobacteria impacted waters.

  • Some DW Treatment Plant Processes Are Effective In Removing Some Cells and/or Some Toxins

Cyanobacteria and drinking water supplies

  • Cyanobacteria are not regulated by EPA or by Massachusetts.

  • U.S. EPA - UCMR4

Cyanobacteria and drinking water supplies

More Cyanobacteria Blooms Are

Expected As Climate Change

Results in Warmer Water

Temperatures & Periodic Drought

(Low Flow) Conditions.

National oceanic and atmospheric administration noaa

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

Blooms appear to be increasing along the coasts and in freshwaters.

Cyanobacteria strategies

Cyanobacteria Strategies

1. Be Aware of Issue

2. Implement Source Water Protection for Prevention

3. Plan Ahead for Cyanobacteria Blooms in Your ER Plan

1 strategy awareness of issue

1. Strategy: Awareness of Issue

  • PWS Experience

  • MassDEP Fact sheet

  • MassDEP Guidance

  • Discuss with Public

2 strategy source water protection

2. Strategy: Source Water Protection


Golf Courses


Reduce nitrogen and phosphorus flowing through the watershed to the reservoir from land uses such as:

  • Septic Systems

  • Lawn/Gardens

  • Dog Waste

Source water protection

Source Water Protection

  • Fact sheets that address these topics and many others are located on MassDEP’s web site at

3 strategy plan for blooms in er plan

3. Strategy: Plan for Blooms in ER Plan

  • MassDEP survey

  • Vulnerability of surface water to blooms

  • Include information in ER Plan

Groups working on cyanobacteria

Groups Working on Cyanobacteria

  • MassDEP Drinking Water Program

  • Other MassDEP Programs

  • Mass. Department of Public Health

  • Other NE States & NY

  • U.S. EPA

  • American Water Works Association

  • Boards of Health

  • Universities

Worcester polytechnic institute project

Worcester Polytechnic Institute Project

  • Public ground water wells under the influence of surface waters.

  • Are there impacts to the well when the surface water has a cyanobacteria bloom?

  • Identify owners of surface waters.

  • Write new fact sheet to raise awareness of issue.

  • Encourage communication between PWS with well & owner of the surface water.

Massdep contacts

MassDEP Contacts

  • WEROKim Longridge (or Deirdre Doherty)

  • CEROBob Bostwick

  • NERONick Zessoules (or Tom Mahin)

  • SERORick Rondeau

  • BostonKathy Romero

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