Aug 21, 2013 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has confirmed the presence of blue-green algal blooms in Cazenovia Lake. This type of algae can be irritating – even toxic – to humans in large enough concentrations, and the DEC is recommending no one drink the lake water and swimmers be sure to avoid contact with any floating rafts, scums and discolored water.
The confirmation of blue-green algal blooms in Cazenovia Lake was made by the DEC on Aug. 13 and reported on their website on Aug. 16. The Cazenovia Town Board was informed of the algal blooms this past weekend, Town Councilor Liz Moran told members of the Cazenovia Lake Association at its annual meeting on Monday, Aug. 19.
While the DEC website did not list the extent of the blooms in the lake – whether localized, widespread or in open water – Moran said the board was informed they were in “low concentrations.” She said the town has not issued any emergency declaration to close the swimming areas or restrict lake use at this time and nobody has reported any illnesses from blue-green algae exposure.
A call to the regional DEC office in Syracuse was not returned.
Blue-green algae, technically known as cyanobacteria, are naturally present in lakes and streams in low numbers. Blooms may be triggered by a combination of water and environmental conditions, including excess nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen, sunlight, low-water or low-flow conditions, calm water and warmer temperatures.
According to the DEC, blue-green harmful algae blooms may look like parallel streaks, usually green, on the water surface; like green dots in the water, or green globs on the water surface; like blue, green or white spilled paint on the water surface; or they may make the water look like pea soup.
Non-toxic green algae blooms can look like floating rafts on the water; like bubbling scum on the water and may be entangled with other plant material; can look silky, hairy or like wet fabric on the rocks, plants or water surface; or can look stringy or hairy or like a tumbleweed in the water or on the lake bottom.
The amount of blue-green algae in Cazenovia Lake has been confirmed by the DEC but not labeled as being “highly toxic.” A highly toxic rating would mean there are toxins in enough quantities to cause health effects when people and animals come in contact with the water through swimming or drinking.
Symptoms from contact with harmful blue-green algae blooms can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, skin or throat irritation, allergic reactions or breathing difficulties. Blue-green algae can also produce toxins that affect the liver and nervous systems when water is consumed in sufficient quantities.
The DEC website on harmful blue-green algal blooms advises that:
—People in confirmed bloom areas never drink surface water even if it is treated because in-home treatments such as boiling or disinfecting water with chlorine or ultraviolet (UV) or water filtration units do not protect people from blue-green algal toxins.
—People, pets and livestock should avoid contact with water that is discolored or has scums on the surface. Colors can include shades of green, blue-green, yellow, brown or red. If contact does occur, wash with soap and water or rinse thoroughly with clean water to remove algae.
—If washing dishes in untreated surface water is unavoidable, rinsing with bottled water may reduce possible residues. While the DEC does not know if water containing low levels of blue-green algal toxins could leave residues on dishes, taking this precaution may help reduce possible exposures.
—Stop using the water and seek medical attention if needed if any symptoms occur while in contact with untreated surface waters. However, swimming, bathing or showering with water not visibly affected by a blue-green algae bloom is not expected to cause health effects.
Moran, who is a water quality specialist who runs the environmental consulting firm EcoLogic, LLC, said algal blooms individually dissipate in three-to-five days but it also spreads, so it will typically last for a “period of weeks” and will move around the lake. Blue-green algal blooms have occurred in Cazenovia Lake the past few years. “It’s a very serious occurrence,” she said.
For more information on blue-green algae, including photographs of harmful and non-harmful green algae blooms, visit the DEC website at dec.ny.gov/chemical/83310.html.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.