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Silver Lake, Lake Ellis tested weekly for E. coli

  • The sign at the entrance to Silver Lake states the rules and regulations the park. ATHOL DAILY NEWS/DEBORRAH PORTER

  • “Garbage in, garbage out” is the basic rule stated by the hand-made sign nailed to a tree at one of the picnic areas at Silver Lake for the convenience of visitors. ATHOL DAILY NEWS/DEBORRAH PORTER

  • Beachgoers are reminded that the sandy cooling-off spot at Silver Lake is smoke free. Dogs are also restricted from the beach and swimming area for the health of visitors. ATHOL DAILY NEWS/DEBORRAH PORTER

Staff Writer
Published: 7/25/2018 11:02:12 PM
Modified: 7/25/2018 11:02:17 PM

ATHOL — Swimmers enjoying the beaches at Silver Lake and Lake Ellis can continue to do so, as test results from water samples continue to be normal, according to the Board of Health on Tuesday.

Water samples are tested weekly for E. coli bacteria in accordance to Massachusetts Freshwater Beaches regulations.

Health Agent Deb Karan Vondal said testing begins the week before the beaches open and a permit is issued. Testing continues through Sept. 4. The cost is taken out of the budget of the Recreation Department, which is a member of the Montachusett Public Health Network.

“We are able to get a better rate,” said Vondal. “The inspector comes out each week and does eight towns all at once.”

The samples are tested at the Nashoba Analytical LLC in Ayer.

It was noted the goose population has been reduced, due to the addling of eggs. The last time it was done was about nine years ago. The public is reminded to not feed the geese at either lake.

Dog Complaint

The Board discussed a complaint of a dog swimming in the designated beach area. A resident reported the matter to the police. Animals are not allowed in the beach area, and it was thought to be posted as such.

The sign posted at the entrance nearest the pavilion and ballfields does not include a restriction for dogs on the beach area. No other signs were visible, other than a hand-printed sign, tacked to a tree near a picnic table (chained to an underground cement block) and hibachi facing the beach, that reads “Silver Lake is A Carry-in, Carry-out park. Please Take Your Trash Home With You.” There is a caution sign stating, “This is a smoke-free area” posted on the lifeguard stand at the beach.

The swimming area is staffed by a lifeguard during the summer. Shore fishing is allowed, but boating is not allowed. There is a pavilion with barbecue grills and 15 picnic tables, maintained by the Athol Lions Club, ballfields and a couple picnic tables scattered around the lake. There are restrooms on the ballfield area near the pavilion.

On Tuesday, the lifeguard reported to the police department that children were observed breaking picnic tables and throwing them in the water. The culprits were gone on arrival, but the officer noticed a table was broken and pieces had been thrown around.

The Lions Club recently purchased and maintains two town-installed dog waste station, which provides plastic bags and a receptacle for disposal.

During a walk in the area Wednesday morning, the beach area and roadway leading to the beach were relatively free of dog waste. The area around the pavilion, however, was strewn with large piles of dog waste (some fresh), and located feet from the waste station and close to the picnic tables.


Vondal gave a brief update on the weekly arbovirus reports on surveillance data that began in June. The state reports there has been a positive test for EEE/West Nile virus in Belchertown. In early July the virus was identified at a mosquito pool in Jamaica Plain. The Health Commission stated no residents have tested positive for West Nile this year and most of the state is in the low-risk category.

“There are pockets of moderate risk around the state,” she said. There is an elevated risk for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in this area.

The West Nile and EEE viruses cause fever and flu-like symptoms, from a mild fever to severe illnesses such as encephalitis or meningitis.

The Board recommends using mosquito repellant on skin, clothing and other surfaces to discourage mosquitoes from landing or crawling on that surface. Repellents that contain DEET, permethrin or picaridin provide protection. Oil of lemon eucalyptus has been found to provide as much protection as low concentrations of DEET, but according to the state Department of Public Health, should not be used on children under the age of 3. DEET should not be used on infants under 2 months of age, and children older than two months should use concentrations of 30 percent of less.

Vondal said people should use repellent and wearing long sleeves. She noted mosquitoes breed in standing water (barely 1 inch of water is needed). She cautioned that dog dishes, and bird baths (it is recommended they be scrubbed once a week) are things that go unnoticed, but are breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Other places where water collects: old tires, tin cans or bottles in the yard, house plants grown in water rather than soil, upright canoes, toys like wagons, tire swings (it is recommended a hole be drilled in the bottom for drainage). Mosquitoes need water to breed, and generally speaking, anything that can hold an inch of water has the potential to be a breeding site.

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