ITHACA, N.Y. — Cayuga Lake is being closely monitored for Harmful Algal Blooms, which were a major concern last summer. So far this year, there have been no confirmed blooms on the southern end of Cayuga Lake.

HABs, or blue-green algae blooms, are visually identifiable. The bacteria gives the water a blue and green paint-like appearance. They can be toxic and if sighted, people are advised to stay away from them.

There have been some confirmed blooms in Cayuga Lake as far north as Dean’s Cove and Long Point. However, there have been some suspicious sightings farther south. Samples have been collected from Lansing Station Road and just south of Atwater, but have not been tested yet, according to Claire Weston, outreach coordinator of the Community Science Institute.

Launched this summer, CSI has been regularly updating a map that shows algae blooms on Cayuga Lake, as well as what areas volunteers monitor. There are three levels indicated on the map — yellow represents “suspicious blooms,” orange represents “confirmed blooms” and red represents “confirmed with high toxins.”

For the source of the map and more information, visit CSI’s Harmful Algal Bloom information page.

Though a few areas have confirmed blooms, there have been no confirmations of blooms with high toxins. Regardless, if anyone sees a suspected bloom, they are advised to report it and stay out of the water.

Weston said a weekly monitoring program is beginning this weekend. A team of volunteers will begin patrolling parts of Cayuga Lake, indicated on the map, and continue until the end of September. The monitoring program is a collaboration between CSI, Cayuga Lake Watershed Network, Discover Cayuga Lake with help from the NYSDEC.

Last summer, the Tompkins County Health Department received many reports from local visitors and residents about the widespread blooms in Cayuga Lake. When there are blooms, people are advised not to swim, fish, boat or eat any fish caught in the water. Pet owners need to be extra cautious because if they ingest the toxic blue-green algae, they can get very sick quickly.

So far, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has not reported any harmful local blooms. The DEC maintains a HABs notification page (available here).

Swimming is open Tuesday at Taughannock Falls State Park, an employee confirmed at about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday. Park officials tested the water Tuesday morning and determined it was safe.

For more information about Harmful Algal Blooms, visit the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network.

If anyone does spot a suspicious bloom, they should stay out of the water and report it to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation at HABsinfo@dec.ny.gov. People can also report blooms to the Cayuga Watershed Network at habshotline@gmail.com. People are advised to send pictures, the location (GPS coordinates are preferable) along with the date and time.

Featured image: File photo of 2017 bloom on southern end of Cayuga Lake

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at koconnor@ithacavoice.com and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.