Harmful Algal Bloom Monitoring
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.
More Information about Cyanobacteria