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3/20/2024

WT Staff

Harmful Algae Blooms
New York Department of Environmental Conservation HABS Information
April 18, 2024


Counting down to spring and the start of 2024 HABS season, NY DEC will begin taking reports end of April/beginning of May.

WTOH.us tracks the Lake Erie HAB via satellite imagery from National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. While we have no current reports of HABs in New York State until the start of the spring monitoring season, it is useful to note that the Lake Erie HAB is beginning to grow. Spring flooding in the Maumee River basin over the weekend may have contributed nutrients to awaken the Lake Erie HAB, we have been tracking through the winter season.

For more details see WTOH.us HABs

Highlights of the NYS 2023 HAB season had the Finger Lakes taking the top three water bodies with the highest number of confirmed HABs over the monitoring season: Cayuga Lake (89) Canandaigua Lake (83) and Owasco Lake (72) .

Clean Water plans include Total Daily Maximum Load (TMDL) plans, where the stakeholders in the area draining toward the target water body work together to limit pollutants. Included in this plan are the Waste Load allowances for municipal wastewater treatment systems, the National Pollutant Discharge and Elimination System of permitting industrial wastewater discharges, combined sewer and storm outflows. The TMDL identifies other point source and non-point sources of contamination, including nutrient escape from agricultural fields.

The work of preventing dissolved reactive phosphates and nitrates from leaving the landscape and moving through the waterways into the lakes is a challenging task faced by state environmental authorities. Unchecked nutrient loading stimulates uncontrolled cyanobacteria growth, impairing the lake.

Some species of cyanobacteria can produce toxic compounds affecting the liver, hepatotoxins, which are particularly dangerous for dogs. The impact on humans is digestive upset, skin rashes and headaches, the impact on dogs is often fatal, there is no antidote to the effect of the toxin once ingested or absorbed by a dog.

The public is encouraged to report observations of HABs which are then checked and confirmed by state authorities and communicated to the public via HABs notifications page and alerts. WTNY.us rebroadcasts the HAB alerts through the monitoring season.

The confirmed presence of a HAB does not always mean there are toxins in the water. Water must be tested for the presence of specific cyanotoxins. Microcystins in the most common toxin tested by labs. A rapid test kit is also available, offering reliable results to 1 part per billion sensitivity. With toxin testing, the public can be directed to clean beaches and access points to the lake to avoid coming in contact with HABs.

Accidental spills of phosphate and nitrate-containing substances can contribute to HABs in excess of the managed TDML. The WTNY.us licensed map shows where hazardous spills can migrate with water. Select the pink radio button above the map to see only the spills, turn on the watershed layer and directional arrows. Get an idea of the number of spills reported in a given week and potential impact on the waterways.

Return here as we look into the specifics of the TMDL plans for Cayuga, Canandaigua and Owasco Lakes, and what is planned for stakeholder collaboration ahead of the 2024 HABs season, in efforts to minimize the HABs in the lakes this summer. More to follow. Check out www.wtoh.us to see how TMDL plans are used to manage the HAB load in Lake Erie, a drinking water source for 11 million people.

Drinking Water - Consumption
Advice from the NY DEC, "Never drink, prepare food, cook, or make ice with untreated surface water, whether or not any bloom is present. People not on public water supplies should avoid drinking surface water during an algal bloom, even if it is treated, because in-home treatments such as boiling, disinfecting water with chlorine or ultraviolet (UV), and water filtration units do not protect people from HABs toxins."

8 HABs remained on the current list at the close of the NY DEC official monitoring season, November 17, 2023.

Going into the freeze up and winter season, we will be looking at the HAB summaries by water body over the last five years. HAB Action Plans prepared for particular lakes will be highlighted here. HAB awareness and action plan implementation is very much driven from the local level. Find helpful information here on how to get involved in the protection of your favorite NY lakes ahead of the next bloom season.

As NY DEC is no longer monitoring and reporting new HABs, send your observations with a photo and location to alerts@wtny.us. These will be pinned on our map and reported as unconfirmed public observations.

HABS Harmful Algae Blooms
Get informed and stay safe around the water this summer
WaterToday collects algal bloom monitoring information from state and federal agencies including but not limited to the CDC, EPA, NOAA and state public health authorities.
HABs alerts are posted on our state maps according to the best available information reported by citizen groups, universities, state and/or federal monitoring agencies.
Before you head out to the beach, pond or stream, check with local authorities to confirm the latest HABs conditions.
Consider carrying a rapid test kit for micro-cystin, the most common of the cyanobacteria toxins.

Sources for algal bloom data.
National Centres for Coastal Ocean Science
A department of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NCCOS provides harmful algal bloom forecasting for certain water bodies and regions including.
 West Basin Lake Erie https.//coastalscience.noaa.gov/science-areas/habs/hab-monitoring-system/cyanobacteria-algal-bloom-from-satellite-in-western-lake-erie-basin/
Lake Pontchartrain  https.//coastalscience.noaa.gov/science-areas/habs/hab-monitoring-system/cyanobacteria-algal-bloom-from-satellite-in-lake-pontchartrain-la/

The forecasting is based on true color imagery provided by OLCI sensors on Copernicus Sentinel-3a satellite of the EUMETSAT group

Environmental Protection Agency Cyanobacteria Assessment Network (CyAN)
The mission of the CyAN project is to support the environmental management and public use of U.S. lakes and estuaries by providing a useful and accessible approach to detecting and quantifying algal blooms and related water quality using satellite data records. 
What is CyAN.  Mobile and web-based application for cyanobacteria monitoring
How does it work?  Users can enter the coordinates or name of local water bodies for monitoring information. 
The CyAN project officially started October 1, 2015. It provided continental U.S. coverage using the
Envisat MERIS archive from 2002-2012
Sign up here. https.//www.epa.gov/water-research/cyanobacteria-assessment-network-application-cyan-app

Centers for Disease Control

Environmental Public Health Tracking provides data and information on health outcomes, the environment, population, and exposures, including hazardous algal blooms occurring in water bodies of the USA, both freshwater and marine.

CDC Public Notice on Hazardous Algae Blooms
It is not possible to know if a large growth, or bloom, of algae or cyanobacteria (also called blue-green algae) is harmful just by looking at it. Some blooms make toxins (poisons), which can still be in the water even when you can’t see a bloom. Learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones from harmful algae and cyanobacteria, what to do if you or a pet is exposed to them, and how to help prevent these blooms.

Swimming and Wading.  Stay out of water with a bloom, rinse off if you or your pets are in contact with water
If you see signs of a bloom, stay out of the water and keep your pets out of the water. Do not fish, swim, boat, or play water sports in areas where this is possible harmful algae or cyanobacteria.
Do not go into or play in water that.

  • Smells bad
  • Looks discolored
  • Has foam, scum, algal mats, or paint-like streaks on the surface
  • Has dead fish or other animals washed up on its shore or beach
Protect your pets and livestock from getting sick by keeping them away from water with possible harmful algae or cyanobacteria. Do not let animals.
  • Get in the water
  • Drink the water
  • Lick or eat mats of cyanobacteria or algae
  • Eat or graze near the water
  • Eat dead fish or other animals on the shore
  • Go on the beach or shoreline
If you or your pets do go in water that may have a bloom, rinse yourself and your pets immediately afterward with tap water from a sink, shower, hose, or outdoor spigot. Do not let pets lick their fur until they have been rinsed. Pets may have harmful algae, cyanobacteria, or related toxins on their fur if they swim or play in water with a bloom.
Do not fill pools with water directly from lakes, rivers, or ponds. The water could contain algal or cyanobacterial toxins or unsafe levels of germs.

Drinking Water.
Follow local guidance about toxins in tap water If you are notified of cyanobacteria or their toxins in your public drinking water supply, follow guidance from your local or state government or water utility to reduce the chances of you or your animals getting sick.
Harmful cyanobacteria may grow in water bodies that supply tap water. Although many water treatment plants can remove these toxins, tap water can be contaminated in certain situations. Cyanobacteria can also produce substances that are not harmful, but can change the taste or smell of tap water.
If you have concerns about the appearance, smell, or taste of tap water that you are using, contact your water utility or health department. Consider using bottled water for drinking and cooking until the problem is resolved.
Don’t boil water contaminated with toxins. Boiling water does not remove toxins and can concentrate the toxin.

 
Fish and shellfish.
Be aware of advisories and health risks related to eating contaminated fish and shellfish
Avoid eating very large reef fish (such as grouper or amberjack), especially the head, gut, liver, or roe (eggs). Large reef fish may be contaminated with ciguatoxin, the algal toxin that causes ciguatera fish poisoning. See the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Fish and Fishery Products Hazards and Controls Guidance for more information on reef fish associated with unsafe levels of toxins.
Check for and follow local shellfish and fish advisories before eating any fish or shellfish you collect yourself. Algal and cyanobacterial toxins in fish or shellfish have no taste or odor. Cooking or preserving food does not remove toxins. Thus, you cannot tell if the seafood is safe by just looking at, smelling, or tasting it.

  • Check to see if shellfish beds are closed. State shellfish control authorities (usually state health departments or other state agencies) are required to control for toxins where harmful algal blooms are likely to occur and toxins could build up in shellfish. Common ways state authorities control for algal toxins include routine monitoring for toxic algae or shellfish and testing shellfish for toxins before or after harvesting. If levels of toxins are unsafe, state authorities will close the area for shellfish harvesting until shellfish are safe to eat.
  • Check safety advisories from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Fish and Shellfish Advisories and Safe Eating Guidelines website.

Report any concerns to your local public health authorities.

EPA notice to the public on harmful algae
Harmful algal blooms can be green, blue, red or brown. They can be scummy or look like paint on the surface of the water.
What are harmful algal blooms?
Harmful algal blooms are overgrowths of algae in water. Some produce dangerous toxins in fresh or marine water but even nontoxic blooms hurt the environment and local economies.
What are the effects of harmful algal blooms?
Harmful algal blooms can.

  • Produce extremely dangerous toxins that can sicken or kill people and animals
  • Create dead zones in the water
  • Raise treatment costs for drinking water
  • Hurt industries that depend on clean water

The EPA has a role in enforcing environmental protection regulations to limit discharges into water bodies that contribute to the growth of harmful algal blooms.
The EPA also maintains list of Impaired Water Bodies by state, those water bodies that are not supporting their ideal uses for recreation, including swimming, fishing and wading.  The EPA works with state authorities to identify water bodies that are not supporting their intended recreational uses, to set daily maximum limits for contaminants and nutrient load for impaired water bodies.  The EPA works with state and other federal agencies to investigate and prosecute violations of the Clean Water Act, with a role in ordering watershed plans that limit discharges to these water bodies to allow for recovery.
Follow WT Clean Water Act Crime Box to learn about the work of the EPA in historic criminal prosecutions involving illegal discharges to water bodies, or making false reports about discharges.
Check out our With the Flow report weekly to see spills, streamflows, algae blooms and drinking water advisories occurring in the same drainage area in the same time frame.








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