News Feature | September 28, 2017

New York Water Supplies Inundated With Harmful Algal Bloom

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga, Associate Editor, Water Online

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Though the summer temperatures that typically encourage them are waning, New York state is dealing with an inundation of toxic algae that may imperil drinking water.

Several source water bodies in the state have been found to contain harmful algal blooms (HABs), which form as the result of nutrient pollution and can leech cyanotoxins into drinking water if not addressed properly.

“Owasco Lake is pea soup, and so are many other lakes across New York State,” reported The Citizen. “Harmful algal blooms are plaguing Skaneateles and Cayuga lakes, too, and local officials are ramping up efforts to protect drinking water and keep it clean.”

August actually brought cooler and rainy weather to the area and this month’s increase in temperatures has fueled the growth. Earlier this month, researchers found that the bloom did contain potentially dangerous toxins.

“Toxins, called microsystin, have been detected in blooms from samples sent in on Sept. 11,” The Citizen reported. “Microcystin can cause adverse health affects in people including nausea, headaches, upper respiratory issues and skin irritation. It can cause health problems and even be lethal in animals, too.”

The presence led to direct drinking water disruption last week.

“Blue green algae concerns in Skaneateles Lake prompted school district officials to shut off the district’s drinking water fountains,” 13WHAM reported.

As of last week, tests were still underway to determine the breadth of the problem and what action, if any, would need to occur at drinking water treatment plants. Initially, it appeared local drinking water would be safe.

“John West, water treatment operator for Auburn, said he did see algae coming into the city’s intake pipe on Monday,” according to The Citizen. “County health officials have sent in a sample Monday to the state Department of Health’s laboratory in Albany for analysis and were still waiting on the results, which usually take about 24 hours. Owasco Town Supervisor Ed Wagner said the town’s treatment plant has not seen any algae so far.”

To read more about HABs visit Water Online’s Nutrient Removal Solutions Center.

Image credit: "LE HABs Sept 14 2017 8," NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory o © 2011, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/