ShoreLine Bloom Monitoring for CyanoBacteriA HABS

Over the past five years, Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association, the Finger Lakes Institute (FLI) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) have been working together to raise awareness, collect bloom samples, analyze blooms samples and notify the public of harmful cyanobacteria bloom locations on Seneca Lake. 

Cyanobacteria, commonly known as blue-green algae or harmful algal blooms (HABs), are found worldwide, especially in calm, nutrient-rich waters. Unfortunately, some species of cyanobacteria produce toxins that may negatively affect the health of animals and humans thus requiring a public notification or alert system.

Last summer, over 100 volunteers monitored 55 miles of Seneca Lake's shoreline and submitted weekly reports of their observations.  Blooms began to appear in mid-August, became wide-spread during the middle of September with 36 of the 39 cyanobacteria blooms identified producing high levels of the microcystin toxin.  In the Finger Lakes, as well as around the world, cyanobacteria blooms are receiving more and more attention.

YEAR

ANALYZED

CONFIRMED

HIGH TOXINS

2018

41

39 

36 

2017

60

50

22 

2016

12

5

2

2015

9

5

1

2014

9

0

0


For 2019, we have over 120 volunteers covering 84 zones representing about 60 miles of shoreline (of 75 total). The monitoring season runs from August 5th through October 6th, or 9 weeks. Each week volunteers survey their zone for HABs at least once, many survey more often. Volunteers try to target the more likely days, those that are calm and sunny. 

When a volunteer finds a bloom, he or she will take a picture and a water sample. The sample is taken to the Finger Lakes Institute (FLI) to confirm the bloom. Two years ago, Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association teamed with Canandaigua Lake Watershed Association to purchase a fluoroscope which is the piece of equipment that can determine whether blue-green algae are present and in what concentration. If the bloom is confirmed, NYS DEC is paying for up to 40 samples to be sent to the Upstate Freshwater Institute for toxin analysis. 

Volunteers submit both “bloom” and “no bloom” reports into an online reporting system. Canandaigua and Keuka Lake Associations also use this system. Bloom reports are depicted on the map on this page for all three lakes. Later in the summer, Pure Waters will also post a spreadsheet with laboratory data for the bloom samples. 

We are always looking for volunteers. Shoreline monitoring is only one way to help. We also need people to help with communications, data collection and managing the volunteers. Please contact us if you are interested.

August 21, 2019
Harmful Algae Blooms Identified!

2019 Bloom Map

Seneca Lake Interactive HABs Map Tips!
        • Reported Blooms are represented by the yellow dots. 

        • Clicking on a dot will bring up a window with data associated with the reported bloom as well as links to any photos.  

Bloom Watch Updates

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Frequently Asked Questions

Blue-Green Algae, Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) or Cyanobacteria?

Cyanobacteria are microscopic organisms that occur naturally in New York lakes, ponds and streams. Under certain conditions they can multiply quickly to form dense, unsightly blooms on the water surface. Cyanobacteria are sometimes called "blue-green algae" or "harmful algal blooms" (HABs) but are in fact bacteria that use sunlight to create their own food (photosynthesis). Under certain conditions, cyanobacteria multiply very quickly leading to the formation of blooms.

Cyanobacteria blooms can form at any time, but occur most often in late summer or early fall, coincidentally, when humans are most likely to cross paths with the bacteria. These blooms may produce toxins that are harmful and dangerous to people, pets, and wildlife. Laboratory testing is the only reliable method for determining if a bloom contains toxins.

What do blooms look like?

Cyanobacteria blooms can be blue, bright green, or brown—they may look similar to spilled paint, pea soup, or greenish colored particles floating on the water’s surface.  

What are the health risks?

Cyanobacteria blooms can be toxic and may cause health problems for both people and animals! Exposure can occur by touching, ingesting, or even breathing contaminated water (or vapor).

Exposure to cyanotoxins may cause an allergic  reaction, breathing difficulty, headache, rash, stomachache, vomiting, diarrhea and even possible liver or neurological damage.If exposed individuals are experiencing adverse symptomsthey should seek immediate medical attention.

How to stay safe?

  • People and animals should keep away from blooms in surface waters. 
  • Do not swim, wade, boat, fish or eat fish caught from areas near blooms.
  • Never drink, prepare food, cook or make ice with surface water during a bloom. 
  • Boiling the water will not remove cyanobacteria or their toxins. 
  • Even if you have an in-home treatment system, use bottled water during a bloom.
  • During a bloom you may consider not showering, bathing or washing, especially if your water looks cloudy.
  • Potable water is always the best option for drinking, preparing food, cooking, or making ice, as well as, washing and bathing.

How to prevent cyanobacteria blooms?

  • Use phosphorus-free fertilizer.
  • Maintain your septic system.
  • Minimize stormwater run off.
  • Properly dispose of chemicals.
  • Create natural areas with native plants, bushes and trees.

WHERE TO REPORT SUSPICIOUS BLOOMS?

You cannot visually determine if a cyanobacteria bloom is producing toxins. Laboratory analysis is the only reliable method for determining if a bloom is toxic. Report possible cyanobacteria blooms to Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association. The best method is to notify your local HAB volunteer, if you know him or her. They are on the spot and can look and sample, if it looks like a bloom. The second best method is via email. Please include location (address is fine) and one or two photos. 

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      Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association
      PO Box 247
      Geneva, NY 14456

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