Prospect Park

Dog-killing algae found in Prospect Park

August 26, 2019 Meaghan McGoldrick
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Dog owners might want to avoid Prospect Park for a while.

The water at Prospect Park Lake tested positive for “high toxins” earlier this month, the Department of Environmental Conservation confirmed to the Brooklyn Eagle Monday morning.

The same “harmful algal blooms” have killed small clusters of dogs across the country for the past three summers, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and has closed a mass of waterways across New Jersey as recently as this month.

Placards recently placed around ponds at Prospect, Central and Morningside Parks urge visitors not to drink the water, not to fish near the scum, and to keep children and animals away.

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“Algae is a natural occurrence that blooms heavily in warm weather and sunlight. The chemistry of the water is high in phosphorous which encourages algae growth. It dissipates on its own when the chemistry balances,” Megan Moriarty, press officer for the city’s Parks Department told the Eagle. “When enjoying fresh water features in city parks, it is important to try to avoid contact with any algae and keep pets on leashes and do not allow them to enter or drink from lakes and ponds unless in areas specifically designated for such activities.”

According to the DEC, while algae occurs naturally in all bodies of water, harmful blooms are often born in calm, slow-moving water where there is sunlight, warm weather and a mix of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. (Pollution from people can make the problem worse, the EPA says.)

DEC told the Eagle that harmful algal blooms may be short-lived (appearing and disappearing in a matter of hours) or long-lived (persisting for several weeks or more), depending on the climate and the characteristics of the lake. They also vary in appearance, from scattered green dots in water to long, linear green streaks. They may even resemble “pea soup or spilled green paint,” or have a white coloration, as opposed to the typical blue-green.

The blooms can cause health effects when ingested, touched and, sometimes, even when airborne droplets are inhaled.

Symptoms of toxic algae exposure in dogs include diarrhea or vomiting, weakness or staggering, drooling, difficulty breathing and convulsions, according to the EPA.

If you think your dog has gotten into a harmful algae bloom, rinse them off immediately (wear gloves while you do so), and get them to a vet if they experience any of the above symptoms.

The public is encouraged to contact the Health Department with any reports of health effects (human or animal), and to clock any potentially harmful algae via this DEC form.

Neither the DEC not the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene have received any reports of any humans or animals sickened by algal blooms in New York City.

Correction (1:54 p.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Parks Department was urging New Yorkers to avoid the parks. The Parks Department is not urging New Yorkers to avoid the parks. The agency is urging New Yorkers to stay out of the water.

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  1. Andressa

    My dog got sick after getting in contact with the water at Prospect Park on July 13th. I called them to confirm the water was contaminated where I was with my dog but nobody knew how to answer. More than a week later they got back to me on their Facebook page confirming that all the lake is contaminated. I also called 311 at the time and nobody was able to offer information. It’s important to mention that only when I was leaving the park I saw a small sign near the lake about the algae bloom and I had to dig their website to find out the information that the area I was, the peninsula, is closed for dog swim. This information is not easy to find unless you type algae bloom on the search and the peninsula had no signs about it, I find that very irresponsible!!! I already urged them to put more signs but of course I haven’t been back there.
    Where my dog got in the water there was no visible signs of algae so I guess she ingested only a bit of toxin. She got very sick but happily didn’t die. She had clear symptoms of contaminations, liver damage, vomit, lethargy, weakness, panting, etc. My dog is dealing with many health problems since then and the vets are not sure if it’s related to the toxin or not. Her liver and kidney values are much better but she has a stubborn pancreatitis that may have been caused or aggravated by the contamination. It’s hard to know because her last blood test was last year and it was all normal but all I know is she had no clear symptoms of pancreatitis before.
    I just sent an email to DEC asking how to report this and I can’t find a place to report to the Departamento of Health and Mental Hygiene. If anyone has any clue please let me know, any help is much appreciated.
    I urge everyone to spread the news about the algae bloom, this can be life saving!