Harmful algae blooms spotted in Seneca Lake

According to testing conducted by Hobart and William Smith College’s Finger Lakes Institute, as well as SUNY ESF, two locations near Dresden tested positive for Blue-Green Algae or Harmful Algae Blooms in Seneca Lake.

The test is the first time that any harmful algae blooms have been officially noted in Seneca Lake this summer. While the activity has not be noted as being widespread, those who conducted the research said that the samples were collected in the final week of August.

While the group did not specifically attribute the algae blooms to the drought that has been gripping the Finger Lakes region this summer – warm, still waters are frequent targets of algae blooms like those observed in Seneca Lake.

Pet owners are urged to use caution when allowing their animals to swim in potentially-infected bodies of water. The algae can be harmful to people, as well as animals. Area lakes have been seeing increased activity on this front – Owasco and Honeoye Lakes both have had issues with algae this summer.

FingerLakes1.com will have more on this developing story as more information is made available.

Statement from Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association

Lake water samples taken the last week of August have confirmed, for the first time this summer, the presence of cyanobacteria, commonly referred to as Blue-Green Algae (BGA) or Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs) on Seneca Lake.

Hobart and William Smith College’s Finger Lakes Institute (FLI) and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF) tested samples from two locations, the Perry Point area near Dresden and the Hector shoreline north of Glen Eldridge Point. Levels of cyanobacteria that are considered harmful to people and animals were found in both locations.

Several other visual reports of suspicious algae blooms have been reported from around the lake this past week. HABs have the following characteristics:

  • pea soup
  • blue, green, or white spilled paint
  • green dots in the water, or green globs on the water surface
  • parallel streaks, usually green

Contact with such waters by people or animals should be avoided when blooms are present because blooms produce toxins that can have harmful effects from skin irritation to lung, liver and nervous system problems depending on the exposure.  These toxins have been known to be fatal in animals that have been exposed, since they often groom by licking their skin or fur.

This is the second year in a row that cyanobacteria has been confirmed in Seneca Lake, with three confirmed occurrences during the late summer of 2015.  Conditions are “ripe” for the continuing HABs blooms as long as the warm weather and water conditions remain.

HABs occur in nutrient-rich waters.  Cyanobacteria can “fix” nitrogen from the air, but it also needs phosphorus for its growth.  SLPWA’s stream monitoring program has shown that the major streams that empty into Seneca Lake are high in phosphorus, which undoubtedly contributes to the occurrence of blooms.

SLPWA in collaboration with FLI and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) has been monitoring the shoreline of Seneca Lake since early July on a weekly basis to detect the occurrence of HABs.  This effort is responsible for the detection of HABs blooms reported today. Such monitoring will continue until October 1, 2016.

In addition, SLPWA maintains two HOTLINES for anyone to report suspicious algae by phone or email. 

If you see a suspicious bloom please notify SLWPA so we can investigate!

  • Call 1-800-220-1609 and give the call center responder the information. The call center may ask you a few specifics about the bloom. That call is immediately transcribed and reaches one of our volunteers within minutes. Through our partnership the NYS DEC will also be notified.
  • Send an email to: [email protected] giving Date, Time, Location (closest road or GPS coordinates, Photo (if you have a camera handy) and contact information for the person making the report. Through our partnership the NYS DEC will also be notified. 


Also on FingerLakes1.com