High bacteria count spurred by rain temporarily closes Puffer’s Pond in Amherst

  • Revelers play in the shallow water where Cushman Brook feeds into Puffer's Pond in North Amherst on Sunday, July 1, 2018.

Published: 8/14/2018 5:56:02 PM

AMHERST — Due to recent heavy rain, the town has temporarily closed Puffer’s Pond because of higher-than-normal E. coli levels.

High levels of the bacteria were discovered during normal, weekly tests of the largest open water body in Amherst. The town has posted signs on beaches warning swimmers not to enter the water. Other recreational activities, like fishing and hiking, are still allowed at the pond.

“Unfortunately we did have some high E. coli readings — bacteria readings — and we, out of an abundance of caution decided to close the beaches,” said David Ziomek, assistant town manager.

Ziomek said other beaches across the state are also experiencing similar problems due to recent heavy rain, which brings runoff into rivers, lakes, ponds and other swimming areas. He added that runoff can bring with it E. coli from septic tanks, agricultural fields and dog waste, for example.

“It’s a good thing for people to be aware of, that some of these natural water bodies may have above-normal bacteria counts,” Ziomek said.

The tests in Amherst took place last week, and both came back on Friday with elevated E. coli levels. Ziomek said the town convened a group of professionals on Monday morning, and decided to close the pond.

Ziomek did not have specific numbers when asked how high the levels were, but said they were “not significantly above the normal levels that are acceptable.” As for people who may have swum in the pond over the weekend, they should not worry, he added.

“I don’t think there’s any great concern there,” he said.

The town will test the pond again several times this week, and will keep residents updated on a daily basis on the town’s website, Ziomek said.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

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