Algae has spawned at Hinckley Pond in South Portland for three straight years, and there is reason to believe it will bloom again this summer. Contributed / Kristina Ertzner

SOUTH PORTLAND — For the fourth year in a row, harmful algae has been found in South Portland’s Hinckley Park.  

On Friday, July 8, South Portland Parks, and Recreation announced on its Facebook page that they had checked the park and found that the cyanobacteria bloom is active. The algae called cyanobacteria can be highly toxic to humans and dogs. According to the statement, this year’s bloom is thousands of tiny particles, making it hard to get a picture of.   

“We are posting the signs around the park to inform people,” the social media warning said. “Please remember to stay away from the water and keep dogs from drinking or swimming. It can be very harmful to dogs if ingested and can result in death.”

When the algae turns into visual globules, it can be toxic to humans and fatal for animals, including dogs. Cyanobacteria is a member of the blue-green algae family. Some blue-green algae are edible, and some are harmful. The form of algae at Hinckley Park is a microsystem releasing a form of cyanobacteria that belongs to the oscillatoria family.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most frequently reported signs in dogs exposed to cyanobacterial blooms are gastrointestinal distress, such as vomiting and foaming at the mouth. Exposure can also cause lethargy and neurologic symptoms, including stumbling, behavior changes, twitching, loss of coordination, ataxia, violent tremors, partial paralysis, and respiratory paralysis.

According to Science Direct, many species of oscillatoria form benthic mats that break free from the bottom and float to the surface. When gas bubbles accumulate, dislodge the mats. During conditions of bloom, warm, stagnant water, frequently enhanced by phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizers, the toxins are concentrated enough to become a significant hazard to wild and domestic animals. 

“It can be lethal to dogs if ingested and isn’t known to kill people but can cause allergic reactions, gastrointestinal issues, skin irritation, and liver damage (none of which we have had reports of from Hinckley Park in dogs or humans),” said Kristina Ertzner of the South Portland Parks and Recreation Department. “People and their dogs can still use the park they are just cautioned about going near the water and warned to not let dogs swim or drink from the water. We also caution people fishing about water conditions.” 


A shoreline restoration project is expected to mitigate the damage from the hazardous algae blooms that have plagued the pond and help lessen the impact of future outbreaks.  

In April, the Parks and Rec Department stated they would be working with BlueWorld Environmental. A fundraising campaign was launched for the park’s toxic algae remediation pilot project. If fully funded at $15,000, it would use 170 carbon reef bags in the upper and lower ponds to help identify and filter out the toxins in Hinckley Pond. Ertzner stated that they are not working with BlueWorld Environmental due to the company not raising enough funds to complete the project. 

“The department is still looking to clean-up the park by restoring native vegetation, however, it is not a two-week project,” said Ertzner. “It will take several years to complete. We are hopeful to get an additional grant this fall that will add to the grant that we received from DEP and will start some shoreline restoration in late August. The water quality will also take several years to correct, assuming that we can reduce the influx of nutrients that are entering the watershed and feeding the algal bloom.” 


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