UPDATE– As of Thursday morning, the level of toxins detected in the City of Auburn’s raw water from Owasco Lake decreased. There were still no toxins detected in the drinking water. Tests only show a point in time and the Cayuga County Health Department is still urging residents to take the precautions below.

AUBURN, N.Y. (WSYR-TV)– Cayuga County is encouraging neighbors to have extra bottles of water on hand after an unprecedented level of toxins was detected in the raw water from Owasco Lake – the source of drinking water for more than 50,000 people.

The high toxins were detected in the water samples taken from the City of Auburn wastewater treatment plant that provides water to the City of Auburn, eight towns, and three villages. Low levels of toxins were also found in samples from the Town of Owasco treatment plant.

“We have never had this recorded level of microcystis in the raw water previously.”

Kathleen Cuddy, Cayuga County Public Health Director

On the bright side, no toxins were detected in the samples taken of the treated drinking water from either system. Cuddy says that’s thanks to the specially developed systems inside the treatment plants that are still working properly. 

Cuddy says the toxins are created from the algae blooms that have been present in Owasco Lake and other Finger Lakes for years. Former Governor Cuomo even awarded Owasco Lake $2 million in 2017 to fight this exact problem. 

As a precautionary measure, the county is encouraging residents to have one gallon of clean water stored for each person in their home each day. The water can be store-bought or bottled from your faucet as the drinking water is still safe at this point. 

If you are bottling public water, make sure it’s in a clean, food-grade plastic or glass container and sealed tightly. Water should be stored in a cool location and replaced every six months. 

If you come in contact with an algae bloom on Owasco Lake, avoid it and report it to the DEC. If your body comes in contact with one while engaging in water activities, Cuddy says you should rinse off, and if it gets into your mouth monitor your symptoms. 

These blooms are formed when nitrogen and phosphorous get into the water stream. To prevent creating more of them Cuddy says to use pesticides appropriately and make sure your septic systems are working properly.