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Holyoke Bird Feeding Causing Quabbin Reservoir Contamination

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WGGB) — Four hundred billion gallons of water flow through the Quabbin Reservoir, serving as Boston’s drinking water for about 2 million people.

Over the past few years, though, the state has been investigating troubling water samples.

“Four thousand birds. 12 hours. Sitting on the water supply reservoir- defecating, cleaning,” Director of Natural Resources for the Department of Conservation and Recreation Dan Clark said. “That potential sort of ball of contamination is really what the issue is.”

After intense research and tracking, Clark and his team now know where the issue is coming from. Gulls call the Quabbin home at night to sleep and by day they go find food. Locally, the big spot is the KMart Plaza in Holyoke, but these birds aren’t picking up garbage.

“What surprised us is how many what we’ve termed dedicated feeders there are out there,” Clark said. “These are actually individuals that make a point of going to these parking lots with the express intent of feeding gulls and feeding gulls with large amounts of food.”

When ABC40 stopped by the KMart Plaza, we found plenty of gulls enjoying everything from grinder rolls to tomatoes to rice all over the parking lot.

If an ordinance passes Tuesday in the Holyoke City Council, those who are intentionally feeding the gulls will now face fines of up to $100. However, it’s not aimed solely at the Quabbin. Local water supplies can also be contaminated because the bulk feedings are drawing so many birds.

“A lot of it is just public awareness,” Holyoke City Councilor Rebecca Lisi said. “People want to do something that is, you know, animal friendly but I don’t think they understand that there are actual public health impacts.”

“We would strongly recommend or ask people just to refrain from the activity, just not a good idea,” Clark said.

The state says that they are engaging in practices to also chase the gulls away by pressuring them to leave critical areas of the Quabbin. Experts also say that the gulls consumption of human foods is actually bad for them, and that there are plenty of resources for bird watchers to enjoy wildlife in a safe manner.

The City of Worcester has had to implement a similar ordinance in their city.

While the Quabbin Reservoir mainly services Eastern Mass., there are a few towns out west that also use it as a resource, including Chicopee, South Hadley and Wilbraham.

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