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Posted on: June 29, 2018

Harmful Algae Blooms Threaten with Warmer Weather

Photo of an algal bloom in shallow water in a lake

UPDATE 7/3/18: Please note that our original press release indicated both Craine Lake and Verona Beach State Park algal blooms were confirmed. This was incorrect and at this time, only the Craine Lake algal bloom has been confirmed. Oneida County Health Department is responsible for the regulation of Verona Beach State Park bathing beach and would be able to provide you additional information and updates. See revised press release below.

The intent behind our recent press release was to highlight to residents to be aware that algal blooms, suspicious and confirmed, have been reported this season. Algal blooms are expected to be spotted in lakes throughout the summer, and may come and go quickly. It is not uncommon for a suspicious algal bloom to clear before confirmation and/or before public notification occurs, making it important for residents to understand what to look for and avoid.

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This season, one algal bloom was reported and confirmed in Craine Lake in Madison County and suspicious algal blooms have been observed in Oneida County on the eastern shore of Oneida Lake at Verona Beach State Park.  With the recent rains and forecast of hot, sunny weather, additional reports of harmful algal-blooms (HABs) in the near future are expected. Residents should avoid swimming, boating, or even just cooling off in waters with any algae.

 “These harmful algal blooms are a health hazard and can cause problems for recreation, and potentially for the quality of our drinking water,” says Madison County’s Environmental Health Director Geoffrey Snyder. “Harmful algal blooms may have toxin-producing microscopic organisms harmful to humans and animals if swallowed. At high levels, swallowing water with toxin-producing algae may cause nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, along with irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, throat, and respiratory tract.”

In warm, shallow, undisturbed surface water that gets a lot of sunlight, the toxic bacteria in algae can grow quickly and easily. These conditions create a bloom that may appear as floating scum on the water surface may appear, along with discolored water covering all or portions of a lake.  Algal bloom colors can range from green, blue, brown, yellow, grey, or even red. Avoid contact with any discolored water, with or without a floating scum or unpleasant odor.

When there is visible presence of algae, operators of permitted beaches must close their beach until the water clears and testing shows toxin levels are no longer harmful. Rapid onsite testing is no longer acceptable for determining satisfactory levels of toxin. The New York State laboratory or a private laboratory certified by New York State can test collected water samples.  Madison County Health Department’s Environmental Health staff is prepared to assist beach and water operators.

Madison County Health Department has four recommendations for residents to protect themselves from HABs:

  • Avoid exposure to all visible algae blooms is the number-one precaution. Do not swim, play by the water, wade, or water-ski when algal blooms are present to avoid accidental swallowing, skin exposure, or inhalation of airborne droplets. Use added caution with open cuts or sores.
  • Do not allow young children or pets to play in water where an algal bloom is present
  • Wash hands and body thoroughly if contact with an algal bloom occurs, and
  • Do not use any water with algal blooms for drinking, washing, or cooking.

To report an algal bloom, email the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation at [email protected] or call Madison County Health Department at 315-366-2526.

 Find more about identifying and avoiding algal blooms at https://www.madisoncounty.ny.gov/1614/Algae-Blooms-Health.

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