Act Now to Restore Uncle Harvey’s Pond Water Quality

We abutters of Uncle Harvey's Pond and other concerned citizens urge the Orleans Board of Selectmen to secure the necessary bids and legal approvals to apply an alum treatment to our beloved pond in the spring of 2019, as recommended by the University of Massachusetts School for Marine Science and Technology and the Orleans Marine and Fresh Water Quality Task Committee.

Recurring toxic blue/green algae blooms in the pond are potentially lethal to our pets and are believed to cause adverse neurological effects on humans*. These degraded conditions have escalated in recent years to the point where we are no longer able to swim in the pond where we once swam regularly all summer long. We have had to guard our pets from getting near the water and we are concerned about the long-term effects of living so close to this body of water.

SMAST scientists have determined that 67% of the phosphorus that provides the nutrients for these toxic algae blooms is recycled from centuries of natural organic debris accumulating in pond sediments, as well as from organic debris accumulating in pond sediments, organics added during our area's farming history, and 4 to 5 up-gradient legally functioning septic systems. During periods of low oxygen levels, this phosphorus is re-released into the water column, causing the problem. A properly applied alum treatment could neutralize this phosphorous supply for 10-20 years.

ALUM (aluminum sulfate) is a nontoxic material commonly used in water treatment plants to clarify drinking water. In lakes and ponds, alum is used to reduce the amount of the nutrient phosphorus in the water.

Fortunately, aluminum is insoluble once it is incorporated into the sediment and poses no risk of any type of contamination. In fact, aluminum is one of the most common elements in the earth's crust, and along with iron, calcium and organic matter are the major, natural binders of phosphorus in sediments.

The research demonstrates that our best chance of eliminating these toxic blooms is by applying alum in April/May of 2019. Spring applications typically remove 65-80% of the phosphorus, compared to only 35-63% for summer or fall applications.

We also support the following measures to further extend the life of the alum treatment by preventing new phosphorus from entering the pond:
- Extend the Meetinghouse Pond sewer to serve the 4 or 5 up-gradient homes, whose existing town-approved septic systems are adding phosphorus to the pond.
- Homeowner improvement of pond-side buffers and enhanced control of storm water.

The Orleans Board of Selectmen will soon be setting a date for public review of the SMAST document. Abutters and others will be notified when that meeting date is announced.

*Note: Scientists at Dartmouth College and the University of New Hampshire are exploring the potential link of cyanobacteria to Lou Gehrig's Disease. Dr. Elijah Stommel is quoted in "Could there be a link between cyanobacteria and ALS?" that "We found that people who live next to lakes with persistent cyanobacteria blooms have up to a 25-fold increased chance of developing ALS." This concept is also explored in the documentary "The Toxic Puzzle" by Bo Landin from compelling anecdotal evidence.
For more information, contact Betsy Furtney: phone: 860-989-0954; e-mail:

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