Scientists, residents, seek answers in the lakes

Gwen Chamberlain
One suspicious bloom was reported on Keuka Lake in July. None have been reported on Seneca Lake so far this summer.

So far in the summer of 2019, one suspicious algal bloom has been reported on Keuka Lake, while none have been reported on Canandaigua or Seneca. But most of the blooms reported in recent years have occurred in late summer, and the shoreline monitoring programs are just getting underway.

Networks of trained volunteers are working on Seneca (86 volunteers), Keuka (10), and Canandaigua (18) to walk or paddle along the shoreline to report and photograph suspicious blooms. The reports and those from other members of the public around New York State show up on an interactive map available at NYHABS.

In addition to the shoreline monitoring, many researchers and organizations continue to seek answers to why harmful algal blooms form in various water bodies, what can be done to prevent them, and what can be done to disperse them before they become a bigger threat to humans, pets, and drinking water supplies.

At the Finger Lakes Harmful Algal Bloom Sympsium held at Hobart & William Smith College July 31, researchers and state officials reported on their work over the past year.

State perspective

Attendees learned about the New York State Perspective from Jacqueline Lendrum, a research scientist with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and Tony Eallonardo, Ph.D. of the Syracuse environmental firm, OBG.

Lendrum said the state has collected HAB data from 130 lakes around New York.

The U.S.Geological Survey and DEC have implemented a comprehensive water quality monitoring strategy in Owasco, Seneca and Skaneateles Lakes. The data from the USGS platforms other data will help in the development of an advanced monitoring model for the entire state.

Eallonardo noted that preliminary data seems to point to a higher frequency of HABs in lakes with a northwest orientation.

Lendrum says the state has awarded $82 million in competitive grants for projects that will address nutrient pollution in water bodies that have been affected by HABS.

Future state initiatives will include funding for watershed management planning and continued review of advanced monitoring data to better understand the causes of blooms.

Mitigation Pilot Program

Stephanie June, also of the NYSDEC reported on preliminary results from the In-Lake Mitigation Pilot Project, also funded by the state comparing the use of hydrogen peroxide to the effectiveness of an ultrasonic device for treatment of blooms. After various treatment strategies in five waterbodies, her preliminary conclusion is that water bodies with greater phytoplankton diversity will respond more favorably to the hydrogen peroxide treatment.

There were no observed negative impacts on the biology of the water bodies. The project will continue with additional work in toxicity comparison, fish response, and evaluation of nutrients.

Hyperspectral Imaging Project

Courtney Wigdahol-Perry, of SUNY Fredonia, reported on Hyperspectral Imaging Project, which involves the use of drones to carry special cameras called Hyperspectral image sensors manufactured by Corning. A partnership between Corning, academic institutions and non-profit organizations, the project’s aim is to test the sensors’ effectiveness as a method to detect algal blooms.

Four drones with sensors will be deployed over Finger Lakes, including Keuka and Seneca Lakes in 2020.

The symposium also included a panel discussion featuring representatives from lake associations, and a keynote speech by Maya K. Van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper and author of The Green Amendment.

Coming up

The Keuka Lake Association is hosting a Keuka Water Quality Summit from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Aug. 12 in Lightner Library at Keuka College. The free and public summit will include presentations from the Finger lakes Insititute, Keuka College Center for Aquatics Research, Keuka Lake Association, New York State DEC, and Yates County Soil & Water Conservation District.