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Heat Wave Brings Earlier-Than-Normal Algal Blooms

The much warmer weather in Chautauqua County has spurred the return of algae locally. Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) should be avoided at all costs and are dangerous according to county and state officials. Submitted photo

The heat wave that scorched the north east last week has spurred some unintended consequences for the area – earlier-than-usual algal blooms on area waterways.

Across the Southern Tier, this week’s temperatures soared dangerously high forcing county officials to issue a heat warning advisory along with tips on how to keep cool. Temperatures that reached the mid 90s Twan Leenders, Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy director of conservation, noted during a news conference last week that green algae has popped up months before it usually does.

“Algae is here a little early this year,” said Leenders. “It really comes into bloom around July and the latter summer months, but because of the temperatures it may have come a little early.”

According to achqgov.com, the Public Health Division of the Chautauqua County Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) urges all Chautauqua County residents and visitors to educate themselves about Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) and to be cautious when swimming, boating, and fishing. The blooms are early enough the county hasn’t yet begun updating its website listing of algal blooms near beaches in the county.

In New York, HABs occur most frequently in the mid to late summer months but can occur at any time of the year. Small bloom conditions can change rapidly due to changes in weather and lake currents. Larger blooms will likely persist throughout the summer once they become established. Blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, are naturally present in lakes. Nutrient rich runoff from surrounding land, warm water temperature, and sunshine encourages blue-green algae growth.

With the right conditions blue-green algae forms blooms which may appear as floating “rafts” or scums on the surface of the water, these blooms are known as Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs). Be alert and watchful for blooms which may resemble “pea soup” or have a paint-like appearance with strong colors including blue-green, green, yellow, white, brown, purple, or red. Blooms are more likely in nearshore areas than open water areas.

Additionally, according to dec.ny.gov, here are some tips:

– People, pets, and livestock should avoid contact with any floating mats, scum, or discolored water. Colors can include shades of green, blue-green, yellow, brown or red.

– Never drink, prepare food, cook, or make ice with untreated surface water, whether algae blooms are present or not. In addition to toxins, untreated surface water may contain bacteria, parasites, or viruses that could cause illness if consumed.

– People not on public water supplies should not drink surface water during an algal bloom, even if it is treated, because in-home treatments such as boiling, disinfecting water with chlorine or ultraviolet light (UV), and water filtration units do not protect people from HABs toxins.

For longtime fishing buddies, Alejandro Martinez-Cox and Tom Duchamp, the sighting of algal blooms was something they could have done without this yearly fishing season.

“I noticed the exorcist girl’s pea green soup (reference to the 1973 film The Exorcist starring actress, Linda Blair) as soon as we put our boat in the river to head up to the lake to catch some fish,” said Marinez-Cox. “It seems this stuff keeps coming earlier and earlier, each year. It’s more than just having to watch out for this when you’re swimming, it affects everything on the lake. Fish, birds, plants, swimming and fishing holes. …You name it, the green mess affects it.”

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