ITHACA, N.Y. – The Tompkins County Health Department issued a release on Monday morning reporting suspicious algae blooms found in Cayuga Lake.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation reported that they are currently monitoring the presence of suspicious blue-green algae blooms, which are also known as harmful algal blooms (HABs). The blooms are reported to be small in size and usually found in specific areas of the shoreline and bays.

According to the New York State Department of Health, blue-green algae are a microscopic organism which forms dense blooms on the water surface. Areas affected by the algae often appear with a strongly colored paint-like quality. The blooms are reported to primarily appear as a blue-green color, but may also appear yellow, white, brown, purple or red.

The Tompkins County Health Department urges visitors of Cayuga Lake – and other calm bodies of water – to be aware of the algae blooms while taking part in water activities this summer. Water affected by the algae may produce harmful toxins to people and animals.

People can be exposed to toxins in various ways, including swimming, boating or fishing in areas with the blooms, according to the NYS Department of Health. Eating fish and using water from affected areas for household use may also contribute to symptoms from algae toxin exposure.

Symptoms may include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, skin, eye or throat irritation, allergic reactions or breathing difficulties occur after drinking or having contact with blooms or untreated surface water, according to the Tompkins County Health Department. The health department suggests anyone experiencing symptoms related to toxic exposure to seek medical attention immediately.

If contact occurs with the blooms, people are asked to rinse the affected subject with clean water – this includes dogs that may have gone swimming in bloom-ridden areas. Areas where blooms are not observed can continue to be used for recreational use.

Visitors of the lake are urged to avoid contact with the water if it appears discolored or has an unpleasant odor, and are asked to report the bloom to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, and submit a Suspicious Algal Bloom Report Form with photos, which can be found here. Report any HAB-related health symptoms to the NYS Health Department at harmfulalgae@health.ny.gov, or call the Tompkins County Health Department at (607) 274-6604.

Alyvia Covert

Alyvia is a Crime Reporter with The Ithaca Voice. She graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in Journalism and Photography.