Algae blooms confirmed on Seneca Lake

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express
An algae bloom on Seneca Lake

Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association (SLPWA) released information last week that Harmful Algae Blooms have been found on Seneca Lake, including a location near Dresden.

State Department of Environmental Conservation have cautioned the public about the potential danger of allowing people or pets to come into contact with these blooms, and to report suspected incidents to the DEC.

Lake water samples taken the last week of August confirmed, for the first time this summer, the presence of cyanobacteria, commonly referred to as Blue-Green Algae (BGA) or Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs) on Seneca Lake.

Hobart and William Smith College’s Finger Lakes Institute (FLI) and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF) tested samples from two locations — the Perry Point area near Dresden and the Hector shoreline north of Glen Eldridge Point. Levels of cyanobacteria that are considered harmful to people and animals were found in both locations. Several other visual reports of suspicious algae blooms have been reported from around the lake. HABs have the following characteristics:

-pea soup appearance

-blue, green, or white spilled paint

-green dots in the water, or green globs on the water surface

-parallel streaks, usually green

Contact with such waters by people or animals should be avoided when blooms are present because blooms produce toxins that can have harmful effects from skin irritation to lung, liver and nervous system problems depending on the exposure. These toxins have been known to be fatal in animals that have been exposed, since they often groom by licking their skin or fur.

This is the second year in a row that cyanobacteria has been confirmed in Seneca Lake, with three confirmed occurrences during the late summer of 2015. Conditions are “ripe” for the continuing HABs blooms as long as the warm weather and water conditions remain.

HABs occur in nutrient-rich waters. Cyanobacteria can “fix” nitrogen from the air, but it also needs phosphorus for its growth. SLPWA’s stream monitoring program has shown that the major streams that empty into Seneca Lake are high in phosphorus, which undoubtedly contributes to the occurrence of blooms.

SLPWA in collaboration with FLI and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) has been monitoring the shoreline of Seneca Lake since early July on a weekly basis to detect the occurrence of HABs. This effort is responsible for the detection of HABs blooms reported today. Such monitoring will continue until Oct. 1.

In addition, SLPWA maintains two HOTLINES for anyone to report suspicious algae by phone or email.

If you see a suspicious bloom please notify SLWPA to trigger an investigation.

• Call 1-800-220-1609 and give the call center responder the information. The call center may ask you a few specifics about the bloom. That call is immediately transcribed and reaches volunteers within minutes. The NYS DEC will also be notified.

• Send an email to: senecahabs@senecalake.org giving date, time, location (closest road or GPS coordinates, photo (if possible) and contact information. Through a partnership the NYS DEC will also be notified.