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Great Pond Foundation
Blue-Green Algae
October 2, 2020
"The water that divides us from the mainland, unites us as a community. Martha’s Vineyard is celebrated for abundant and beautiful natural spaces, but one of our greatest assets is our strong and resilient community. Our physical isolation from the mainland reminds us of the essential role our community and its resources play in our ability to respond in times of crisis."

Emily Reddington | Executive Director

-excerpt from Gazette Commentary

Is it safe to go in the water?

By now, many of you have heard about the recent cyanobacterial sampling conducted by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and reported in the yesterday’s Gazette article. As a scientific organization, Great Pond Foundation values the role of science in decision-making and respects the huge responsibility held by scientists to provide context and critical evaluation when presenting novel data.

Scientists regard novel discoveries with a child-like enthusiasm and joy, but they also have the tools to temper their excitement with an understanding of the distinction between preliminary data and conclusive evidence. Science without context, replication, and a professional level of skepticism (peer-review) can be dangerous. Currently, our scientific staff has more questions than answers, so we would like to clarify what is known and what questions have yet to be answered. We also want to respond the numerous emails we have received concerning the safety of our beloved Island ponds.

Blue-green algae in Chilmark Pond, Abel’s Hill lot, September 26, 2020. Photo at 1pm, by Richard DeWitt with conditions sunny, calm, very slight breeze out of the southwest.
Blue-Green Algae, or Cyanobacteria

Both the type and the abundance (concentration; cells/mL) of the cyanobacteria matter when it comes to determining health risks to pets humans, and ecosystems. Every pond has cyanobacteria (they are normal members of an ecosystem), and some types produce harmful toxins when they bloom, and many do not.

First, there is no evidence that anyone was exposed to toxic cyanobacteria (a.k.a. blue-green algae) in Edgartown Great Pond (EGP) this season. The type of cyanobacteria that accumulates at the surface of a body of water and forms a toxic blue-green scum was not detected in EGP, as it was in other MV ponds such as Chilmark Pond...

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Protect the Pond & The Planet
Restoring our coastal ecosystems is local conservation with at global impact. Eelgrass meadows in Edgartown Great Pond sequester more carbon than tropical rainforests. This carbon captured by coastal marine ecosystems is called BLUE CARBON.