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ShoreLine Bloom Monitoring for CyanoBacteriA or 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 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.

 YEAR ANALYZED CONFIRMED HIGH TOXINS
 2019TBD  TBD  TBD 
 2018 4139  36 
 2017 60 5022 
 2016 12 5 2
 2015 9 5 1
 2014 9 0 0


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:

    • Attend a 2-hour training session at the Finger Lakes Institute in Geneva.
    • Observe the same segment of shoreline from August 5 - October 8, 2019.
    • Document conditions using a digital camera or smart phone.
    • Submit a weekly observation report.


2018 Bloom Map


Seneca Lake Interactive HABs Map Tips!


        • Hover over the icons in the map menu bar to access a the map options.
        • Click on the camera icons to see pictures of the blooms.
        • Click on the color coded map pins to view additional details.

          GRAY        =  No Bloom per laboratory results
          GREEN      = Suspicious Bloom Reported via the HABs Hotlines
          YELLOW   = Suspicious Bloom Reported via a volunteer
          ORANGE  = NYSDEC Confirmed Bloom
          RED           = NYSDEC Confirmed Bloom with High Toxins

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 willnot 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 immediately to Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association so that we can investigate.


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

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