A Swimming Season Cut Short: Lake Massapoag Closures

By: Muskan Kumar — Correspondent

The site for the first ever Sharon Day festivities, Lake Massapoag is a source of recreation and enjoyment for many. But in recent years, especially 2021, the lake located in the center of Sharon has had problems due to algae blooms and high E-Coli levels. This problem is not unique to Massapoag. Several bodies of water across Massachusetts, including other lakes and coastal beaches, have been hit with similar problems this year. 

Senior Daniil Koval worked at the lake as a lifeguard for Camp Everwood this summer, and first heard about the algae midway through the summer. “The first time, we were just told that the lake was closed because of algae, but a few weeks after the lake reopened, I noticed more algae in the lake,” said Koval. 

Visible Cyanobacteria Algae Scum was first reported on July 15th, 2021. Koval says that later in the summer, there was another algae bloom. The blooms continued to be an on and off problem in August. 

On August 11th, E-Coli levels were found to be high, closing the Community Center beach for the rest of the season.

The lake was officially closed on August 23, making all water activities at your own risk. The town of Sharon website stated, “Presently, E-Coli testing stops when the beaches close, as it is only required while a beach is open by Mass DPH. The algae remains day to day but will lessen as cooler weather comes.”

Ms. McLean, a Sharon Public Health Nurse and Administrator for the Sharon Health Department, says that the exceptional amount of rain and the unusual weather this summer created a perfect environment for algae. “The harmful algae likes certain conditions to thrive – heat, sun and nutrition – the perfect conditions from this summer,” said McLean. 

Biology teacher Mr. Zachary Snow adds that runoff containing lawn fertilizers, animal waste, and increased pollution can have an impact on the lake.

McLean says that Cyanobacteria is often visible as a bright green coloring in the water, especially in shallower waters. Sometimes a mat may also be present. “As the algae and scum mats degrade and break down, toxins are released into the waters. The bacteria can be swallowed, absorbed through the skin or inhaled- each causing different medical issues. The cyanobacteria is especially toxic to animals,” said McLean. 

As for E. coli, Snow says that most strains are non-toxic but if the levels of E. coli are high. “It can be an indicator that other fecal bacterial species are present which can be harmful to humans and other animals,“ said Snow.

The town is keeping a close eye on the situation and finding ways to ensure the quality of the lake. Several sectors including the Conservation, Lake Management Committee, Recreation Department, and the Health Departments are involved.

Extended testing, says McLean, for beaches in the cooler weather and changed tributary monitoring will help spot potential sources of contamination.

In regard to ways Sharon residents can help, Snow says that high levels of E. Coli are because of animal feces so better clean up will help, “via picking up after the dog, not feeding geese at lake, proper maintenance of septic systems, etc.”

For algae blooms, Snow says that since nutrients from lawn fertilizer are often the source of large algal blooms, limiting the use of fertilizer and finding other ways to take care of lawns are important. “For residents around the lake- choose lower nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers if possible and monitor your septic system for issues,” McLean added.

And for all Sharon residents, McLean says to “please report concerns if you see something and pick up your trash after your visit.”

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