Potentially Harmful Algal Blooms

Potentially Harmful Algal Blooms

Submitted by Paul Torrisi, M.D.

Recently a few of us from the Skaneateles Lake Association (SLA) attended the regional meeting of all 11 Finger Lakes at Hobart & William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y.

In addition to learning that we’re the only lake with an established lake wide Eurasian Milfoil Control Program paid for with annual dues and donations to SLA, it was clear that individual residents on other lakes are “on their own” paying substantial sums for annual cleanup on their own waterfronts! This is obviously a “helter skelter” situation with no long term benefit to their lakes, despite some representatives boasting larger dues paying memberships than SLA! Ours exceeded 700 in 2015, due to Fran Fish’s tremendous effort as Membership Chair – still only a MINORITY of those who live on the lake and in the watershed!!

We also have the most comprehensive and established Invasive Species Stewardship Program, under Dr. Buzz Robert’s direction. In fact, our Lake Steward Program serves as a regional model, and helped The Finger Lakes Institute secure over $500,000 from the DEC recently. This grant will be used to set up similar programs aimed at Invasive Species control and educating boaters on neighboring lakes, benefiting the entire region. This will ultimately help protect Skaneateles Lake by decreasing the transmission of invasive species to our lake!

Now to the subject at hand, i.e., potentially harmful algal blooms. We were also surprised to learn at this meeting of the Finger Lakes Regional Watershed Alliance (FLRWA) that Skaneateles Lake was one of the only lakes that, to date, has not reported any toxic blue-green algae blooms! These are actually caused by a type of bacteria known as cyanobacteria which can thrive and grow in more nutrient rich waters. They usually appear as various shades of blue-green, looking like pea soup or even spilled paint, thus the name. These blooms of cyanobacteria can occur any time of year, but most often during the warmer summer months. Some types produce toxins that can be very dangerous to both humans and animals.

Potential health effects range from skin rashes, allergic reactions, and gastrointestinal symptoms to liver damage, seizures and neurological impairment! If one sees such a bloom it should be reported to the county health department immediately, and assumed potentially toxic, avoiding direct contact.

Our neighbor, Owasco Lake, reported over 15 confirmed cyanobacteria blooms in 2015, leading to water use restrictions or even beach closures!

This is a potentially dangerously harmful situation that we would like to avoid, if possible. Please add your name annually to SLA’s list of dues paying members to help keep our waters clear and pure! Go to the website at SkaneatelesLake.org or mail dues/donations to SLA, PO Box 862, Skaneateles, and NY13152.

Source: Skaneateles Press