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 and were present into October with 36 of the 39 cyanobacteria blooms identified producing high levels of microcystin. Our findings show that cyanobacteria blooms are a growing problem.
This year, in an effort to get a more complete picture of where blooms appear on the lake, we hope to monitor all 75+ miles of Seneca Lake's shoreline. We are pleased to announced that over 90% of last year’s volunteers have agreed to participate in the shoreline monitoring program this year. However, we will need additional volunteers to help observe the entire shoreline.
Please contact us, if you are interested in helping out and can:
2018 Bloom Map
Seneca Lake Interactive HABs Map Tips!
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 immediately to Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association so that we can investigate.