How clean is Morses Pond?
There are various ways one might ask about how safe the pond is for activities such as swimming. The information we've found to date indicates the Morses Pond is very safe. For example, the pond closings are almost none existent, yet it is easy to find many causes of heath problem in both public and private swimming pools. Therefore, from a safety perspective, the choosing to swim in the pond instead of a pool is probably the smart choice.
At the April 6, 2005 meeting, Dr Ken Wagner indicated that studies to date have found no toxins in the pond. For example, contaminations such as Mercury were not found. This is good news for pond management, such as the removal of the several feet mud/soil from decayed plants at the bottom of the pond. This mud/soil is very nutrient rich and is helping prompt the growth of the invasive plants.
The pond is used by Wellesley for drinking water and swimming at the Town beach. Because the water is used for drinking, it must be closely monitored, which further ensures that the Pond is safe.
At present, there are concerns about the weeds that help create an environment for the algae blooms in the northern part of the pond. Also, there is concern about the influx of bad quality water entering the pond. In particular, it is beneficial to reduce use of fertilizers and pesticides on lawns.
Commentary: How clean is it?
I can see people on the beach from our kitchen window and I'm glad to see so many people enjoying Morses Pond today. We paddled over earlier and spent several hours playing on the new Cape Cod sand, swimming, eating and cooling off under the umbrellas.
Morses Pond is a great place to go with the whole family. I find that my kids are entertained for a longer period of time on Morses Pond than at any of the local pools. They spend hours digging and building bridges in the sand, swimming in the shallow and deep waters, buying snacks from the vending machines, sliding down the new slide and playing on the playground and swings. They even enjoy trying to keep up with the little sunfish. There is also more shade at the pond than at the pools, especially with the new umbrellas. The kids usually only want to stay at the pool for an hour or two but today we spent four hours at the pond and they didn't want to come home.
It seems that some people in Wellesley don't like to swim in Morses Pond as they think it may be unclean. However, I'm not sure people realize that at least 40% of our drinking water in Wellesley is coming from wells just outside of Morses Pond. Our town water is derived from an aquifer that Morses Pond helps replenish. Thus, it remains imperative for the town to keep Morses Pond water clean. Of course, the Department of Public Works is continually testing our water after treatment to ensure that our drinking water meets or exceeds the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
True, Morses Pond water isn't crystal clear. The water is somewhat brown due to the tannins from dead leaves, the churning of the water and to algae. Supposedly, the water replenishes itself each month as it flows through to Lake Waban. During the summer swimming months the Recreation Department evaluates the clarity and conditions of the pond on a daily basis and is required by state regulations to close the pond if the pond has less than four feet of visibility. This visibility ensures that the lifeguards can see everyone swimming.
Some people prefer swimming in a chlorinated pool. Unfortunately, normal chlorine levels kill most things but not everything. A local sports club found this out two years ago when a large number of people were exposed to a major outbreak of cryptosporidium. Cryptosporidium is an intestinal parasite generally found in developing countries that causes severe diarrhea and dehydration. Due to the volume and flow of water in Morses Pond, this type of outbreak is much less likely to happen.
Another problem with Morses Pond is the Canada Geese poop. To reduce the number of Canada Geese coming to the beach, the Recreation Department now posts pretend coyotes on either side of the docks after closing. Actually, I rarely see or hear the geese at the beach and we hope to get a pretend coyote for our own backyard soon. Swans also keep the geese away. We now have a family of swans swimming happily at Morses Pond, two adults with four little signets. Between the pretend coyotes and the swans, our neighbors tell us that there are fewer geese on the beach than in years past.
Wellesley's Health Department also tests the waters for fecal coliform bacteria on Monday mornings and, if necessary, on Wednesdays as well. They have only closed the beach once in the past four years due to a high fecal coliform bacteria count. Any communicable disease outbreak in Wellesley is reported to the Health Department. The Health Department then tries to determine the source of the exposure. There hasn't been any links of a communicable disease outbreak to Morses Pond in recent history.
In the past, more people used Morses Pond than they do today. Just a few years ago, Morses Pond belonged to the Suburban League and had a swim team. Although there isn't a swim team today, the swimming lessons are very good and private lessons are available. Fishing was more common as people fished for bass, pickerel and sunfish. A little over 10 years ago, people sailed on Morses Pond and there were Sunday Regatta sailing races. Unfortunately, today the weeds and algae in Morses Pond make sailing impossible as the centerboard gets clogged.
I wish more people in Wellesley would come, visit Morses Pond, and enjoy this wonderful resource. The sand is much nicer than in the past and the umbrellas and the breeze are wonderful on a hot day. Maybe if more people will come and enjoy the beach then more people will take an active interest in helping to improve our pond. The Friends of Morses Pond have a new website www.morsespond.org that outlines many of the issues and thoughts about our pond. Please stop by and come for a swim!
Cathy Lunger lives on Pickerel Road
At some of the Morses Pond public meetings, people have suggested that when the Pond goes, Wellesley could build pools. They have also suggested that people would prefer a pool over the beach. This recent article, Frequent Pool Closings Spur Anger in the Boston Globe would suggest that the Morses Pond beach is a safer option:
Frustration has grown at a Newton pool over how frequently the swimming facilities have been closed to clean up what state and federal regulators call "fecal accidents." Some members of the Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center pool said they are angry that on hot summer days they and their children are unable to access a pool they are paying hundreds of dollars to use. They said that they understand that some incidents are unintentional, and that the pool can't control everything that happens. But the pool has been closed about eight times this summer - a frequency that has pushed some over the edge, and prompted one person to start an online blog for others to voice complaints.
Stomach virus outbreaks caused by contaminated recreational pools have been rising since the early 1980s, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were no outbreaks reported in 1983, but there were 18 in 2002. The most common infection causes diarrhea, but eye and ear infections can also be caused by contaminated water.
If you ask frequent users of Morses Pond beach, its hard to remember when the Pond has been closed because of health reasons. The beach was open all of the Summer 2005 season (i.e. the beach was NOT closed for health reasons at any time during 2005).
Algae and weeds in the north-west cove in late summer:
Algae blooms, especially blue-green algae are of concern. Algae blooms occur very frequently in the northern part of the pond. During the summer, the Town of Wellesley Recreation Department does regular tests for algae in the southern portion of the pond (near the beach) and when needed treats the southern portion of the pond with alum. There has never been any treatment of the northern part of the pond, nor its inflows.
An article from the Honolulu newspaper highlights the algae issue which is something that everyone should be concerned about if things go on for too long with the continued algae build up. Water-scum toxin linked to nerve ailments (cached copy) By Helen Altonn firstname.lastname@example.org, on April 5, 2005.
A small aquatic and photosynthetic bacteria found throughout the world might produce a toxin linked to certain neurological diseases such as a paralytic disease among Guam's Chamorros, researchers have discovered.
Cyanobacteria, more commonly called pond scum, is known to produce molecules hazardous to human health, but the researchers' findings are the first indicating they also generate a toxin associated with some types of neurological disease.
... Cyanobacteria is often called blue-green algae ...
Our understanding that is that the University of Hawaii has been doing a fair
amount of research in this area. The primary source for this article was taken
Paul Alan Cox, Sandra Anne Banack, Susan J. Murch, Ulla Rasmussen, Georgia Tien, Robert Richard Bidigare, James S. Metcalf, Louise F. Morrison, Geoffrey A. Codd, and Birgitta Bergman Diverse taxa of cyanobacteria produce -N-methylamino-L-alanine, a neurotoxic amino acid.
which was published in the:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (www.pnas.org).
We should stress that this is one early report. However, common sense says that if you see algae blooms in, say the northern part of the pond, don't swim in them. Alternatively, you can swim at the Town Beach (southern part of the pond) which is closely monitored and algae is removed.
An interesting story, Toxic algae levels feared in lower Charles River - Officials warn against contact that appeared in the Boston Globe on Aug 16, 2006 highlights the importance of the restoration projects to improve the Pond. We don't want to see the Pond closed due to algae issues.