July 30, 2021

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Watershed Report

New York State HABs Report for the Week of July 5-12

By Gillian Ward

Harmful Algae season is heating up, check local conditions before heading to the lake.

HABs may appear in just one part of a water body but the toxins cannot be seen and can spread through the water. Check each area before you enter the water or allow pets to swim. The appearance may be of green paint, or grass clippings.Avoid contact with any such water and never drink or cook with lake water, the toxins from cyanobacteria are not removed by boiling the water.

What is referred to here as harmful algae is technically “cyanobacteria”, from the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition:

“Any of various photosynthetic bacteria of the phylum Cyanobacteria that are generally blue-green in color and are widespread in marine and freshwater environments…”

“ any of a group of photosynthetic autotrophic prokaryotic microorganisms possessing characteristics of both bacteria and plants. They were earlier named blue-green algae, a term less used now in technical discussions. Since the chlorophyll within the cyanobacteria is diffused throughout the cell, rather than being contained in chloroplasts, they are no longer thought of as true plants.”

New York State Department of Health advises:

“Some HABs can produce toxins, some do not. However, exposure to any HABs can cause health effects in people and animals when water with blooms is touched, swallowed, or when airborne droplets are inhaled. Exposure to high levels of HABs and their toxins can cause diarrhea, nausea or vomiting; skin, eye or throat irritation; and allergic reactions or breathing difficulties.”

The CDC reports that 83% of HABS samples submitted for study contained toxins of concern for health of humans and animals.(CDC One Health Harmful Algal Bloom System report by Roberts, Vigar, Backer et al, results published in Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report Dec 18 2020, Vol 69, No. 50)

It is not known what causes cyanobacteria to release toxins, so in all cases where HABs are present, the NYS Department of Health advises no contact.

If you suspect that you have seen a HAB, the Department of Environmental Conservation requests that you submit a suspicious algal bloom report, including digital photos, both close-up and landscape to show extent and location of the suspected HAB. Email for more information.

Report any health symptoms to NYS Health Department at and to your local health department. Note: All HABS alerts - based on NY DEC reports, can be found on WTNY's maps, just click on the yellow bubbles for details and locations.

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