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Schumer Calls on Feds to Help Combat HABs in New York State

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Senator Chuck Schumer yesterday (November 7) called on the federal government to launch a new statewide effort to combat harmful algal blooms in New York waters.

Sen. Charles Schumer

Sen. Charles Schumer

In light of a new report showing more than 1,100 individual blooms were found in Upstate New York lakes this year alone, Schumer requested the Army Corps Of Engineers to bring in certain Pilot Programs that have already found success fighting HABs in other states like Florida.

Reports of these large algal blooms have grown in recent years due to a variety of factors, including nitrogen pollution from older wastewater systems that’s increased the amount of phosphorus in waterways throughout the state.

Experts say climate change has also brought warmer temperatures and more spring rainfall, both of which favor the growth of algae blooms.

According to the EPA, red tides, blue-green algae or cyanobacteria, harmful algal blooms have severe impacts on human health, aquatic ecosystems and the economy.

On a short list of lakes Sen. Schumer deemed to be most critically in need were Skaneateles and Seneca Lakes, which together had 113 reported blooms this year.


The following information is from Senator Schumer’s press release:

Skaneateles Lake

In 2019, NYSDEC reports that this waterbody may have experienced 24 HABs. For 123 years Skaneateles Lake has been an exceptionally clean drinking water source for currently 200,000 people in Onondaga County, New York. The highest of the Finger Lakes, Skaneateles Lake covers three counties at 16 miles long and three-quarters of a mile wide, with a maximum depth of 315 feet.

In addition to approximately 2,000 year-round residences along the lakeshore and a booming tourism industry, 45% of the watershed is used for agriculture. Often regarded as the cleanest Finger Lake and one of the cleanest lakes in the United States, things changed in 2017 when a HAB outbreak was discovered in the lake’s water intake pipe.

During that outbreak, surface water tests showed levels of algae toxins nine times higher than what the State Department of Environmental Conservations considers high levels. This HAB lasted for weeks, even stretching into October. HABs returned in 2018, and again in 2019. In May 2019, the U.S. Geological Survey and New York State installed new technology that detects changing water conditions which could indicate the early stages of HAB formation.

This technology is not only an early warning system but it also helps researchers gain a better understanding of HABs so they can develop treatment and preventive options. This or other technology could aid in preventing the spread of HABs in Skaneateles Lake.

Seneca Lake

In 2019, NYSDEC reports that this waterbody may have experienced 89 HABs. The largest and deepest of the Finger Lakes, Seneca is a source of drinking water for nearly 100,000 people, as well as a driver of the regional economy.

Seneca is surrounded by more than 50 wineries—as a result, the lake is a regular location for tourist activities, increasing the possibility of HAB exposure to humans and pets. This year marks the fifth year in a row that cyanobacteria have been confirmed in Seneca Lake, with at least 24 separate blooms reported in September 2019 alone.

According to NYSDEC, on September 8, 2019 there were multiple reports of HABs with confirmed high levels of toxicity.

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