A harmful algal bloom (HAB) was detected in Upper Saranac Lake (USL) in the first week of September. Located in the north basin of the lake, the bloom was small, localized, and fortunately dissipated fairly quickly. The bloom was reported to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which confirmed it; the HAB is now identified in the NYHABS system.
The confirmation of a HAB means this is not just a nuisance discoloration of the water, rather a toxic cyanobacteria. Toxic blooms are capable of producing contaminants that can cause health effects in people and animals. Areas with HABs should not be used as a water source for drinking or cooking, to recreate in, or have pets around.
While the exact causes of HABs vary, they tend to occur in waters that are high in nitrogen and/or phosphorus. This bloom was likely triggered by heavy rains introducing nutrients into the water followed by a hot calm period as was seen the first week of September.
Major and persistent blooms are frightening for water-dependent tourism areas such as the USL region. Algae growth severely hampers recreation and tourism. USF focuses on various educational and outreach initiatives to prevent algae blooms from becoming a consistent problem.
What can you do?
Know it. HABs vary in appearance from scattered green dots in the water to long linear green streaks, pea soup, or spilled green paint, to blue-green or white coloration.
Avoid it. Take the following steps to limit your exposure:
- Don’t swim, fish, boat, or wade in areas with blooms.
- Don’t eat fish caught from areas with algae blooms.
- Don’t drink, bathe, wash dishes, or prepare food with water containing algae.
- If you, your family, or your pet have been in contact with a HAB, rinse with clean water and report any symptoms to your local health department. Symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting; skin, eye, or throat irritation; and allergic reactions or breathing difficulties.
Prevent it. You can do your part to lessen the chances of a bloom:
- Maintain your septic system to prevent wastewater from seeping into surface water.
- Maintain a native vegetative buffer along the lakefront and tributaries to prevent stormwater runoff from directly entering the lake.
- Avoid the use of fertilizers.
- Replace expanses of lawn with landscape patches of trees, shrubs, and mulch to capture and hold rainwater and divert on-site runoff and rain gutters to gardens or small depressions where water has time to infiltrate the soil.
- Reduce the total amount of impermeable surfaces by replacing them with natural walkways, gravel, or permeable pavements. Avoid the use of asphalt near the lake.
Report it. If you see a suspected harmful algal bloom you should take a photograph and report it to the DEC. Suspicious Algal Blooms Reporting forms can be found at https://survey123.arcgis.com/share/66337b887ccd465ab7645c0a9c1bc5c0
For more information visit https://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/77118.html