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News from the Skaneateles Lake Association

Skaneateles Lake gets help in fighting toxic algae — from a robot                         Glenn Coin

Vince Moriarty, a research scientist at IBM, works on a vertical profiler floating in about 60 feet of water in Skaneateles Lake. The profiler, installed in July, monitors conditions in the lake, including harmful algae blooms. Glenn Coin | gcoin@syracuse.com (Glenn Coin | gcoin@syracuse.com)

Skaneateles, N.Y. — A robotic buoy bristling with scientific instruments has joined the fight against toxic algae in Skaneateles Lake.

Scientists from IBM and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute installed the buoy, called a vertical profiler, on July 30. The algae quickly cooperated: A bloom that closed beaches and infiltrated water intake pipes started Aug. 4.

That wasn’t necessarily what researchers wanted, said Harry Kolar, an IBM researcher on the project.

“We didn’t have a whole lot of baseline data to work with,” he said.

The $170,000 profiler, built at RPI, is collecting plenty of data. It records everything from air and water temperature to water clarity to pigments produced by toxic algae, and it does it every 10 minutes, 24 hours a day. It’s called a vertical profiler because it measures all the way through the water column, from surface to bottom. It sits above about 60 feet of water just off the Skaneateles Country Club dock.

Scientists hope that by collecting enough data, and running it through complex modeling programs, they can predict when toxic algae blooms will appear.

“That’s the Holy Grail science and the community want to know: when and where is the next one,” said Rick Relyea, an RPI biology professor.

It’s an important question for Skaneateles Lake, the unfiltered drinking water source for about 200,000 residents of Central New York, including the city of Syracuse. Last year, a major algae bloom infiltrated the lake’s two intake pipes, and the city scrambled to add more chlorine to keep the algae toxins from getting into drinking water.

This year, Syracuse is conducting more tests. The brief, early August algae bloom showed low levels of the algae toxins, called microcystins, in the intake pipes for a couple of days. More recent tests have shown no microcystins, liver toxins that can sicken humans and kill dogs. (While algae is the common term, the blooms are actually a kind of bacteria known as cyanobacteria.)

The Skaneateles Lake pilot project is a spinoff from the much larger Jefferson Project on Lake George. That project, in its fifth year, deploys 51 sensor platforms with more than 500 individual sensors in the Lake George watershed. Eric Siy, director of The Fund for Lake George, one of the partners in the Jefferson Project, calls Lake George “the world’s smartest lake.”

Siy said the Lake George data has been used to study road salt infiltration, invasive species, and nutrients, including those that can fuel algae blooms.

Lake George has never had a reported harmful algae bloom – but then, Skaneateles Lake hadn’t either before last year.

“It’s clear it can happen anywhere,” said Relyea, who directs the Jefferson Project.

Relyea calls Skaneateles Lake and Lake George “sister lakes.” Both are long, narrow, deep, lakes with low levels of the nutrients that spur algae blooms, he said. The two are also among 12 selected as high priority water bodies in New York state’s $65 million toxic algae control program.

Skaneateles Lake is half as long as, and 128 feet deeper than, Lake George, but Skaneateles will be simpler lake to study and model, Relyea said. Lake George’s surface area is larger than Skaneateles’s, and it has a more varied lake bottom and numerous islands in the middle that alter wind and currents.

Skaneateles Lake, by contrast, “is like a long, skinny bathtub in a valley,” he said.

The Skaneateles Lake Association supports the new data collection program, said Executive Director Rachael DeWitt.

“We have a lot we can learn from them,” said DeWitt, who started Aug. 1, just in time for this year’s algae bloom. “The more data we obtain, the better.”

 

Source: Syracuse.com

News from the Skaneateles Lake Association

 

Our Team of Many Members Has Been Busy                                       Fran Rotunno Fish

 

Earlier this year when we were sending out membership renewal notices to our 2017 members, the letter started out with the following sentence: “The Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) of this past fall was the most “in your face” threat that Skaneateles Lake has ever experienced.”  Sadly, here we are in August 2018 dealing with another Algal Bloom.  And like last year, the SLA has been out front dealing with the Algal Bloom.  Our Skaneateles Lake Association Shoreline HAB Monitoring Volunteers, organized by SLA’s project coordinator, Mary Menapace, responded to many calls from community members and collecting samples for possible testing and taking photos for examining suspicious elements on the shore line or in the lake.  Our Executive Director, Rachael DeWitt, has been getting email blasts out to the 900 plus families in our SLA member database and using social media to advise a wider audience of test results, beach closings and actions to take.  Rachael DeWitt, SLA President, Paul Torrisi, and many other SLA Board members have been fielding questions to get the correct information to those who email or phone in with their observations, concerns and questions.

 HOWEVER, WHAT IS MORE IMPORTANT IS ALL THAT THE SLA HAS BEEN DOING SINCE LAST YEAR’S ALGAL BLOOM TO PUT INTO ACTION A PLAN TO DETERMINE THE SOURCE FACTORS RESULTING IN THE BLOOM AND DETERMINING WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT.  We cannot control most of the major factors that contribute to the bloom including:  warm days and water, sunny days and calm waters.  We can determine the significant sources of the nutrient load that is the last essential ingredient for an Algal Bloom.  We are a significant part of the team working on that and this is what we our doing.

Our Nutrient Management Committee, which is one of the 4 parts of the SLA’s HAB Action Plan has been working extensively to get the proposal submitted by the Town of Skaneateles with the CNY Community Planning and Development Board to the Department of State for a $300,000 grant to develop a 9E Plan.  The submission and approval of this plan is essential to be eligible for millions of dollars in grants for further monitoring and major remediation projects to reduce the nutrient loading of the lake.

It is important to note that award of this $300,000 grant requires a 25% match from the organization submitting the request.  The Skaneateles Lake Association has already funded the significant portion of this required match.  Most importantly, we have funded it in a way that puts us ahead of the game in determining possible major sources of nutrient loading.  This has been accomplished because we have contracted with the Upstate Fresh Water Institute to conduct extensive ongoing monitoring of 3 additional tributaries – Grout Brook, Bear Swamp Creek and Harold Brook.  Each stream will be visited on a bi‐weekly basis to maintain the equipment and to collect water samples for laboratory analyses and also during two storm event surveys intended to capture high flow conditions.  The following parameters will be measured:  total phosphorus, total dissolved phosphorus, soluble reactive phosphorus, total nitrogen, nitrate+nitriate, total ammonia, particulate organic carbon, dissolved organic carbon, total dissolved solids, turbidity, and silica will be essential in making determinations of possible remediation projects for state funding.

This monitoring has been supported by a few generous donations from community members and the Town of Niles has also provided support.  With funding from the Town of Skaneateles this same monitoring has been conducted for several years on Shotwell Brook.  With the addition of the monitoring of 3 additional tributaries by the SLA we are developing a significant database for future decisions on actions to take.

And there is more.  Charles Driscoll, SLA Board Member and Professor at the College of Environmental Science and Forestry, is conducting additional monitoring of 6 more intermediate tributaries including 5 and 10 mile creeks, Hardscrabble, Glen Cove, Bentley Brook, and Fisher Creek.  He has collected two rounds of samples from those tributaries already and will be providing Mary Menapace with sampling bottles to give to SLA volunteers who will be trained to continue the sample collection.  Dr. Driscoll has equipment to do additional monitoring in 4 of the 6 of the streams and the SLA is anticipating the ability to fund the equipment for monitoring the other 2 streams.

Finally, as previously reported, the SLA and the Jefferson Project partnership has established a cooperative relationship and the vertical profiler, Atlantis II was installed in Skaneateles Lake on July 30th.  We have received our first data report from the profiler, which is extensive, and that data and continuing data from it will be a further component of the data used in helping us to determine potential actions to take including further monitoring and remediation projects to help protect the lake.

The SLA is planning watershed wide community education programs and projects and will be supporting efforts by the DEC and the Cornell Cooperative Extension in their programs and efforts.  All of the SLA efforts are focused on working cooperatively with government and private agencies for the protection and remediation of the lake.  The SLA’s efforts are focused on promoting participation by every member of the Skaneateles Lake watershed community in the programs that will be offered and/or actions that reflect the lake protective practices offered by those programs.

Today, you can join in those efforts by supporting us with your SLA membership or SLA membership renewal for 2018 and by encouraging your friends and neighbors to join the SLA.

You can join the SLA u at SkaneatelesLake.org or you can call 315-6850916 and request a Member Registration Form to be mailed.

The past 2 weeks our membership efforts have been supported by the extensive efforts of Anne Salzhauer and Meredith Torrisi and the assistance of Jean Sardino, Pam Ryan and Eileen Murphy in preparing membership materials and maintaining the member database.

Please thank the following for co-supporting the Milfoil Boar for a day or multiple days:  Jennie & Stephan Bersani, Elet & John Callahan, Robert Congel, Jen & Bill Mayo, Molly Elliott, Goffe Cottage (Carla & David Goffe), Bob Honold, Dr. Robert Vitkus, Elaine & Mathew Medwid, Noreen & Michael Falcone, Barbara & Kenneth Hearst, Marcia & Robert Hunt, Jolie & Scott Johnston, Mary Marshall, Cynthia & William McCauley, Cate & Sally, Kelly & Gregory Weaver, Louise & Robert Ganley, Celeste Gudas

Please thank the following for sponsoring the Milfoil Boat for a day or multiple days:  Molly & Todd Phillips, Anne Marie & Carl Gerst, Lindsay Groves, Sherill & Dave Ketchum, Helga & Henry Beck, Barbara & Craig Froelich, Joseph, Lynne, Michael, Elena, David & Tracy Romano, Amelia Kaymen & Eric Yopes, and Anonymous Donor.

Please thank the following for sponsoring an Invasive Species Monitoring Steward for a day:  Sandra Loli & Richard Boni, Dorothy Krause, Liz & Bill Sharp, Renee & Joseph Lane, Patti & Marvin Langley, Sieglinde Wikstrom, Melissa & John Henry, Betsy & Bob Madden.

Please thank the following for their contributions to the David Lee Hardy Fund which supports our Invasive Species Monitoring Stewards:  Jen & Bill Mayo, Renee & Joseph Lane, Lucia EcklesSource

Source:  Skaneateles Press