Latest sighting garnered little public attention despite heightened water quality concerns
By Zachary Matson
A harmful algal bloom formed on Lake George in early October during a stretch of calm and sunny weather, the second concerning bloom of the year, according to state and local officials.
The formation of cyanobacteria was spotted in the Harris Bay area in the southeastern part of the lake near Assembly Point. Other blooms have also occurred in that area.
Dave Wick, executive director of the Lake George Park Commission, said the harmful algal blooms (HABs) on Lake George have mostly been small and short-lived but that they do pose long-term concerns. He also highlighted that none of the blooms have been identified as toxic.
“There have been a few warning shots across the bow, and we hope these stay limited,” Wick said in a recent interview.
The recent bloom was the second of the year and the fourth documented on the lake since one was first reported in October 2020. The state Department of Conservation received reports of the bloom on Oct. 6, Oct. 8 and Oct. 10, confirming “two small localized HABs,” according to a DEC statement.
Cyanobacteria, which can float to the surface of the water during warm and still days, have the potential to become toxic. But no toxins have been detected in any of the Lake George blooms. Officials have also said that the blooms on the lake, including the most recent, have not impacted drinking water sources. Since many homeowners on Lake George pull drinking water directly from the lake, the emergence of the harmful algal blooms have raised water quality concerns.
“No impacts (to drinking water) were determined, though (the state Department of Health) reminds residents to never drink untreated surface water,” according to the DEC statement.
While the HAB in July was widely reported by local media outlets, following a press release issued by the Lake George Association a couple of days after the bloom was identified, the October bloom appeared to receive far less attention. The Lake George Association did not publicize the bloom, but local officials did report the bloom to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
During an Oct. 26 meeting, William Mason, a Lake George commissioner, mentioned seeing the bloom and said he wanted to note that in the interest of transparency.
Chris Navitsky, the Lake George waterkeeper, said he and other staff at the Lake George Association reported the bloom to state officials but did not publicize it more broadly to the public, citing DEC’s ultimate responsibility on the issue. But Navitsky said he does think there needs to be a more consistent process to notify the public when future blooms occur.
“We did not go out and report it (directly to the public) because we reported it to DEC and feel it’s their responsibility. We do feel there needs to be a better notification system for residents and people who live around here, so that process is evolving and improving.”— Chris Navitsky, Lake George waterkeeper
Harmful algal blooms are made up of cyanobacteria, which have been present long before humans. They are photosynthesizing bacteria that naturally occur in the environment. Researchers have found that the bacteria float up and down in a water body and eat nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen. The bacteria also tend to bloom at the surface on warm, calm and sunny days. They can be an indication of increasing nutrients in the water – in part from runoff, septic facilities and other pollutants – and changes to the lake’s environment.
The HABs raise concerns because of their potential toxicity, their ability to clog waterways or intake pipes and the negative impact it could have on boaters and other people who recreate on the lake.
“We see these and they are obviously becoming more routine,” Navitsky said.
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