cyanobacteria | CAI



The towns of Barnstable and Mashpee, along with the state Department of Environmental Protection, knowingly allowed nitrogen pollution from septic systems to degrade water quality across the Cape, according to a new report by the Boston-based Conservation Law Foundation.

Association to Preserve Cape Cod

 The Association to Preserve Cape Cod (APCC) has released its second annual State of the Waters report this week, and found an increase from last year in the percentage of saltwater embayments and ponds with unacceptable water quality. 

Gerald Beetham; Association to Preserve Cape Cod


1. What does a cyanobacteria bloom look like? 

Often, cyanobacteria blooms can look like bright green paint on the water’s surface. They’re also described as looking like pea soup, but colors can range from blue, to brown, to red, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Association to Preserve Cape Cod

 As CAI reported this week, algal blooms in local ponds can be dangerous to humans and animals. They are also a sign of a bigger problem; pollution from human sources like septic systems and more recently, the effects of climate change.  CAI's Kathryn Eident talked with Climate and Environment reporter Eve Zuckoff about some of the key things she learned in reporting about cyanobacteria blooms and how to tackle the problem.  

Eve Zuckoff

Part Three of a three-part series

Biologist Karen Malkus’s laboratory in the Barnstable Town Offices features a marble vanity with a mirror framed by light bulbs.

“It used to be …  the ladies’ room, which is now converted into the lab,” she said recently.  

Eve Zuckoff

Part Two of a three-part series

On a rainy Monday morning in Mashpee, ecologist Kevin Johnson balances on one foot while trying to pull on a pair of waders.

“I'll wade out … around knee- to waist-deep and take my sample there,” he said.

Eve Zuckoff

In early August, carpenter Michael Forgione told his mother that he was heading out to go crabbing in the brackish waters of Chilmark Pond on Martha’s Vineyard. Carol Forgione, a 72-year-old nurse practitioner, wished him a good catch.


The Boston-based Conservation Law Foundation has put Mashpee, Barnstable and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection on notice that it plans to file a lawsuit over pollution in Cape Cod bays and ponds from septic and wastewater systems. 


“Honestly, this lawsuit is long overdue,” said CLF senior attorney Christopher Kilian.

Gerald Beetham; Association to Preserve Cape Cod

In five ponds across the Cape, high concentrations of blue-green algae blooms are raising concerns about dangerous levels of toxins they produce.

Santuit Pond in Mashpee, taken August 21, 2019. The pond is experiencing significant impacts from a blue-green algae bloom that can pose serious public health risks.
Charles Culbertson

Many of us like to swim in any one of the thousand-odd ponds on the Cape. But around the country, blue-green algae blooms have overtaken many of these waterbodies and exposure to the blooms can cause health problems in humans and pets that range from headaches, fevers, organ damage, even death. So how big is this problem on the Cape right now?