What you need to know about blue-green algae in Skaneateles Lake

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After blue-green algae was found on the surface of Skaneateles Lake, the New York State Department of Health determined late Tuesday that there is an increased concentration of toxic algae in drinking water.

Tuesday night’s results are the first that show the drinking water being affected.

Here’s everything you need to know about blue-green algae and what it could mean for you when it comes to your drinking water:

Whose drinking water is impacted by the blue-green algae?

Anybody who’s water is sourced fully or partially from Skaneateles Lake. That includes both water served by the Syracuse Water Department and OCWA. The City of Syracuse, Towns of Skaneateles, Geddes, Onondaga and DeWitt, and the Villages of Skaneateles, Elbridge and Jordan all get their water supply from Skaneateles Lake.

Is the water safe to drink?

For people whose homes draw water directly from Skaneateles Lake, not using Syracuse Water Department or OCWA, leaders advise not to use the water.

For people who get water service from Syracuse Water Department or OCWA, as of Wednesday afternoon, Onondaga County’s Health Commissioner says the water is safe to drink. Results later in the day may change that status for some people.

Can I use the water for cooking or cleaning?

For people whose homes draw water directly from Skaneateles Lake, not using Syracuse Water Department or OCWA, leaders advise not to use the water.

For people who get water service from Syracuse Water Department or OCWA, as of Wednesday afternoon, Onondaga County’s Health Commissioner says the water is safe to use. Results later in the day may change that status for some people.

Is it safe for pets to go in the water?

No. The Onondaga County Department of Health says pets should not be swimming in Skaneateles Lake. Toxins can get in their fur, so when they go to groom, they can ingest the water.

How is the Skaneateles School District dealing with the problem?

The school is providing bottled water for all students for the time being.  Drinking fountains have been shut off.

What if I have a water filter?

Very few filters take care of the toxins found in blue green algae. The Skaneateles Town Supervisor recommends drinking bottled water instead.

What is being done now to eliminate the blue-green algae?

In terms of surface algae, weather is the primary factor in algae spreading. Warm weather is perfect conditions for it grow. In terms of drinking water, the Syracuse Water Department has increased its chlorine levels in an effort to reduce algae toxins in finished drinking water.

More information can be found on the county health department’s website.

See a full list of areas that OCWA serves below, and where the water comes from:

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