Blooms confirmed for portions of Lake Champlain as well
By Gwendolyn Craig
It might be the new norm. Environmental conservation officials have confirmed a harmful algal bloom at the southern end of Lake George earlier this week.
This is the third reported harmful algal bloom ever documented on the lake, and the first one reported this season. Environmental conservation records show four bloom reports in 2020, but DEC considers a couple of the reports to be part of one bloom event. Lake George’s latest bloom is earlier in the season than last year, too. A nontoxic bloom was first reported on Oct. 23, DEC records show.
Lake George Association staff identified and photographed the bloom on Tuesday at Halls Marina, just northeast of Million Dollar Beach, during a routine sampling of the lake through the Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program. In a news release sent late Thursday, an LGA spokesperson added that streaks from a harmful algal bloom were also observed near Shepherd’s Park Beach and in between that beach and Million Dollar Beach.
DEC said Friday that staff had not observed a harmful algal bloom near any of the area’s beaches, but the beaches continue to be monitored. DEC also said no blooms had been seen as of Friday.
Harmful algal blooms are scientifically known as cyanobacteria. They are photosynthesizing bacteria that naturally occur in the environment.
Jackie Lendrum, with DEC’s Division of Water, said “cyanobacteria have been in existence in our lakes, ponds, rivers since dinosaurs walked the earth. They are part of a healthy ecosystem.” What triggers DEC to call something a harmful algal bloom, however, is when the cyanobacteria outcompete other organisms and become visibly dense.
Researchers have found that the bacteria float up and down in a water body and eat nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen. The bacteria also tend to bloom at the surface on warm, calm and sunny days. Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky said the area’s latest rainstorms have led to an increase in nutrients in the lake. Tuesday’s warm and humid weather could have also made the perfect recipe for a bloom. Still, Lake George is considered one of the cleanest, low-nutrient lakes in the country.
“It is surprising, but the factors are there,” Navitsky said of Lake George’s latest bloom. “Any time you see cyanobacteria floating in the water column and floating on the surface, that’s a concern.”
DEC said Lake George’s latest bloom was small and localized and “dissipated almost immediately but may re-form as this unusual weather pattern persists.”
Navitsky also said Tuesday’s bloom wasn’t massive, but rather a couple of streaks. It’s still of concern, however, considering many homes use Lake George as their drinking water source. The village’s water intake pipe was not far from where the bloom was located. Some cyanobacteria can produce liver and neurotoxins.
A spokesperson for the state Department of Health said that out of an abundance of caution, untreated and treated Village of Lake George water samples were tested for toxins. No toxins were present in those samples, and state health and environmental conservation officials have said the water is safe. The DEC also tested bloom samples. Results were in on Friday afternoon and showed toxin levels below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s advisory guidelines for drinking water.
DEC recommends the public learn what a bloom looks like, report any suspicious blooms and avoid them. Pets should also be kept out of suspicious-looking water.
Lendrum added that all the data collected through the Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program shows Lake George is still very clean.
“The science continues to tell me we’re doing a great job in Lake George,” Lendrum said, adding that people around the lake should continue to be vigilant for blooms.
Researchers from The Jefferson Project, a lake-mapping and modeling program, are studying why the bloom may have occurred.
Harmful algal blooms on Lake Champlain
Blooms are cropping up in water bodies across the state.
Lake Champlain is seeing plenty. Environmental conservation officials have documented several large and small blooms up the western side of the lake including in Essex and Clinton counties.
Warren County also had confirmed blooms earlier this year on Lake Sunnyside and one also on Tuesday at Wilkie Reservoir in Lake Luzerne. A Department of Health spokesperson said no toxins were detected in the City of Glens Falls’s drinking water.
To learn more about harmful algal blooms, what they look like and how to report a suspicious one, go to https://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/77118.html.