The Andover Townsman
---- — ANDOVER — Soaring bacteria levels has forced the temporary closure of Pomps Pond.
The pond on Abbot Street has been closed since Wednesday after a regularly conducted test showed the town resource recorded more than seven times the state limit of bacteria in the water.
While seasonal pond closings are par for the course in New England in early- to mid-August, Pomps got hit with closing notices early this year because of a perfect alignment of poor water conditions, according to town Health Director Tom Carbone.
"It's a function of the heat and the weather," Carbone said.
There are usually two main causes of high bacteria levels — lots of swimmers and lots of rain washing anything on the ground into the water. High heat, like that experienced recently, can help speed up growth as well, according to Carbone.
So how high were the bacteria levels?
According to weekly test results, the pond water went from having just 20 colonies per 100 milliliters of water on July 15 to 1,700 colonies per 100 milliliters on July 22 — more than seven times the state limit. The state requires bacteria levels to be no greater than 235 colonies per milliliter.
Town Manager Reginald "Buzz" Stapczynski has drawn heat for recently closing Pomps Pond to out-of-towners. Asked whether a restriction on activity at the pond all season long could have helped keep bacteria levels down, Carbone said, "It's possible. I can't say (overuse) was the case here."
However, "the more people we put into the resource, the harder nature has to work to keep it clean," Carbone added.
After the spike early this week, bacteria levels appear to be coming back down to the state requirement. Carbone said the test on Wednesday showed bacteria levels at 360 colonies per 100 milliliters of water.
Although still above the legal limit, that is nearly a fifth of what it was two days earlier and might be a sign that the beach will re-open soon, Carbone said.
While many ponds face bacteria issues in August, Pomps was able to avoid a closure last year. It's been two years since the town beach has been closed to poor health conditions, Department of Community Services Director Mary Montbleau said.
"This is a little burr for us. It has happened, but we haven't had the issue for a couple of years," she said.
Meanwhile, there are only a couple weeks of beach life left in the pond, which is set to close for the season on Aug. 18.
Any swimming lessons or other events postponed due to the pond closing this week will be rescheduled, Montbleau said. Parents looking for updates can visit the DCS website at www.andoverdcs.com or call the department at 978-623-8274.