2020 CURRENT BLOOM STATUS
Over the past six 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 120 volunteers monitored 60 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 34 of the 40 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.
For 2020, we have over 120 volunteers covering 80 zones representing about 60 miles of shoreline (of 75 total). The monitoring season runs from August 3rd through October 11th, or 10 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 to submit as evidence. Sampling cannot be performed this year due to the DEC dropping its sampling/testing program and funding limitations caused by COVID-19. Despite this, we are still confident that we can obtain accurate and high-quality HAB identification data to present to the public. Volunteers have proven to be highly adept at correctly identifying blooms (>90% accuracy) and previous year's analyses reveal that the majority of blooms are "high toxin".
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.
2020 Bloom Map
Seneca Lake Interactive HABs Map Tips!
Bloom Watch Updates
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?
How to prevent cyanobacteria blooms?
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.