“They’re Scared, Too”: Private Pond Owners Struggle to Get Water Tested for Toxic Algae

UNION CO., N.C. – Mandie Ring has had a crash course in pond management. WCCB News @ Ten anchor Morgan Fogarty asked her, “Did you ever think you would have to do all this research to learn about blue-green algae?” Ring replied, “Never. I never thought it would be this hard to find someone to come out and take a sample.”

She’s spent the past eight days calling, writing, and researching companies that test pond water across both Carolinas. Ring says, “I’ve talked to so many people and everybody keeps referring me to other people.”

She’s worried that her pond in Monroe may contain the toxic blue-green algae, that has killed at least three other dogs in North Carolina and one in Georgia. If it’s in her pond, she suspects it killed her dog, too, as well as drove away the birds that used to live here. She says, “Still as quiet as can be.”

Ring’s learned the test for the toxic algae isn’t commonly performed, and can be costly. But finally, on Thursday, a pond management expert told her about two at-home tests she could try. Neither are guaranteed, but at this point, she’s willing to try anything. In one test, use a jar like a mason jar or pickle jar to collect a sample of pond water. Put it in your fridge and check it in the morning. If the algae has floated to the top, chances are it’s the blue-green type. The second test, the stick test, is simple. Put the stick in the water, pull it out, and check the end. If the stick comes out looking like it’s been stuck in a can of paint, it’s a sign of blue-green algae. To read more details about how to conduct these tests, click here.

Laughing at the rudimentary simplicity of the tests, Ring says, “I guess that’s what we have to do!”

She’s been sharing her findings on Facebook, and gotten plenty of feedback from other pond owners, too. She says, “They’re also wanting to have their ponds tested, you know, they’re scared, too.”

So far, two public ponds in Mecklenburg County have tested positive for the poisonous blue-green algae: the pond in Robbins Park in Cornelius and the pond in Park Road Park in south Charlotte. The experts say the best way to treat it: post signs telling people to keep their pets and kids out of the water, and wait for cold weather to kill the algae off.