What harmful algal blooms could mean for summer activities on Owasco Lake

AUBURN, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) - Algae season along the Finger Lakes is still more than a month away, but for now, neighbors on Owasco Lake are learning how to monitor the harmful blooms that may pop up just off their docks.

If you see an algae bloom, try to avoid using the water. That was the bottom line for volunteers at the Harmful Algal Bloom training session just off Owasco Lake on Tuesday.

"You can look at it, look at the beauty of the lake, but you can't use it if you want to swim, if you want to water ski, if you want to jet ski,” says Owasco Lake resident and algae monitoring volunteer Rick Nelson.

Those volunteers are learning to monitor the algae- known as HAB’s- which can create a murky film on lakes, but is more than just an eyesore. 

"They're microscopic bacteria that sometimes proliferate to really large numbers and can form something that are called blooms. Occasionally, they produce toxins and can be harmful to health for people and animals,” adds Dr. Rebecca Gorney of the Department of Environmental Conservation.

The DEC says one of the trickiest things about harmful blooms is that there are still a lot of unanswered questions surrounding them.

For example, right now, there's no blooms to be seen in the water, but there's also no way to predict how big the problem will be starting in August.

"The biggest kind of thing we don't know is how to predict when blooms will happen or where they'll happen, or how long they'll be around,” says Gorney. “So, people really want to know how bad will it be this year, how much will it impact my recreation plans and that is very hard to know ahead of time.”

What the DEC does know is that being in the water with those blooms is not healthy and that can have a lasting impact on towns along the Finger Lakes.

"If you spend $1,000 or $2,000  for a week to have a nice cabin and you can't go in the water, you're not coming back and that's going to affect the local economy negatively,” says Nelson.

Starting after the Fourth of July, the trained volunteers will start monitoring the algae in Owasco Lake.

The DEC stressed that it is important to receive training before monitoring.

For more information on algae blooms, click here.


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