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Popular doggie swimming hole 'off-limits' due to blue-green algae

August 21, 2019 05:26 AM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — A beloved swimming hole for Rochester area dogs was formally declared “off-limits” Tuesday because of potentially deadly blue-green algae contamination.

Tests conducted by the Monroe County Health Department Tuesday confirmed algae bloom in the pond at the Ellison Park Dog Park. The pond area had been closed since Monday evening after a report on the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation website raised the alarm about algae. 

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“There is a toxin contained in this blue-green algae that can be harmful, and even fatal, to both dogs and humans if there is contact made,” Monroe County Parks Director Larry Staub said.

The news was a letdown for dog owners like Dick Phillips, from Ontario, who regularly takes his dog Rusty to the park, and the pond area behind it.

“Rusty’s a swimmer,” Phillips said. “If I let him back there, he’ll head straight for the pond and he’ll swim back-and-forth for 20 or 30 minutes.”

Phillips admitted he had already started having misgivings about the water in the pond as summertime temperatures rose.

“By this time of the year, the water is pretty nasty," Phillips said. "I had him in there about three weeks ago and by the next day, he was carrying his head funny with an ear infection.” 

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation reports numerous algae blooms across the state including in Irondequoit Bay. This summer algae infections have killed dogs in Ohio, North Carolina, and Texas.

The effects of contamination by the algae could be very fast, Staub said.  

“It could happen within hours,” he said. "It could happen within 15 minutes that you would develop symptoms.”

On Thursday, parks crews posted makeshift warning signs normally used to warn about algae blooms on area beaches, with the words “dog park” added with a magic marker.  

Staub said the pond at the Ellison Dog Park had never been the scene of algae bloom before, and the county had no idea how long it would stay closed. But he said it would stay closed until the bloom subsided.

“[We'll] Probably wait until well into the fall before we take her to anything that’s not flowing water,” dog owner Lynn Braband said.

“Now we will wait until it freezes over again and we can watch them go slipping and sliding out on the ice," Phillips said.

Take a look at this map posted on DEC's website. It shows where blooms have been reported in 2019. 

If you suspect that you have seen a harmful algal bloom, you're asked to report it to the DEC.

Credits

Charles Molineaux

Copyright 2019 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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