Pilot Program In Four-Part Initiative To Combat Algal Blooms Begins

A pilot program on Skaneateles, Owasco, and Seneca lakes as part of New York’s $65 million, four-point initiative to aggressively combat harmful algal blooms in vulnerable lakes and waterbodies in Upstate New York has begun.

The project pairs state and federal researchers with advances in data collection and monitoring to identify contributing factors causing harnful algal blooms.

“Protecting water quality is a top priority to ensure safe drinking water and the health of New Yorkers,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “This pilot program will allow us to continue to monitor the status of harmful algal blooms across our lakes, but more importantly, will help us to gather crucial information that will assist us as we work to eliminate these blooms altogether.”

As part of the 2018 State of the State address, Cuomo directed the state’s Water Quality Rapid Response Team, co-chaired by Basil Seggos, state DEC commissioner, and Howard Zucker, state health commissioner, in partnership with the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, to convene a series of regional summits. The summits brought together national, state and local experts to discuss the science of harmful algal blooms and develop strategic action plans for 12 priority lakes across New York, including Chautauqua Lake, that has experienced or are vulnerable to harmful algal blooms. The lessons learned from the action plans are being used to develop strategic plans for restoring water quality and preventing harmful algal blooms in other lakes.

The Seneca, Skaneateles and Owasco lakes project is an outgrowth of the harmful algal bloom initiative and a collaboration between the DEC and the United States Geological Survey’s NY Water Science Center. Project researchers deployed two “advanced-monitoring stations” at different locations in the northern reaches of Skaneateles Lake. The locations, one near-shore and one off-shore, provide water-quality information that will contribute to the understanding of harmful algal bloom development, duration, and effects on water quality.

Additional monitoring stations are scheduled to be deployed in Owasco and Seneca lakes in mid-September. The advanced-monitoring stations will measure in-lake water-quality conditions and use the information collected will help direct the implementation of future mitigation strategies to reduce human health risks from harmful algal blooms. Each station is equipped with state-of-the-art technology that measures temperature, specific conductance, pH, dissolved oxygen, percent oxygen saturation, turbidity, chlorophyll fluorescence, phycocyanin fluorescence, and dissolved organic matter fluorescence. The near-shore station also is equipped with a webcam. The sensors collect information on these parameters at 15-minute intervals, 24-hours a day. Data collected are being sent to the internet in real-time and incorporated into the USGS National Water Information System. Once in NWIS, the data are immediately available to anyone with internet access.