November 26, 2021

County watches out for toxic algal blooms

Dan Lyon/multimedia intern

Dean Pond in Marathon is pictured with algal bloom in this July 2018 Cortland Standard file photo. These blooms are considered Harmful Algal Blooms and can be toxic to humans and animals.

Blue-green algal blooms, which contain harmful bacteria, haven’t yet appeared on a large scale in Cortland County waterbodies, but they have affected surrounding counties, Cortland County Director of Environmental Health Mike Ryan said.

“This has been a big topic in recent years and an increasing problem in New York state,” Ryan said.

Last year, blue-green algae was found in Skaneateles Lake, and Onondaga County issued a health advisory about the potential effects on the drinking water for people whose water is supplied directly from the lake. Toxins, released by bacteria when they die, were found in the lake, and Ryan said Onondaga County chlorinated the water to resolve the issue.

Cayuga County is using a state grant to add filtration systems that provide a physical barrier to the blue-green algae from entering drinking water.

Ryan said Cortland County receives daily reports from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation on algal blooms. There have been confirmed harmful algal blooms this year discovered on July 2 at Lake Neatahwanta in Oswego County. The most recent report from the DEC said that the algal blooms appeared as “Widespread or Lakewide” and “Large Localized.”

Song Lake in Preble is the only waterbody in Cortland County with a confirmed bloom this year, said Amanda Barber, manager of the county Soil and Water Conservation District, who consulted with the DEC website.

Dean Pond in Marathon, Little York Lake in Preble, Casterline Pond in Homer and Tully Lake in Preble had confirmed blooms last year, Barber said. To avoid contamination people should avoid contact with discolored and possibly contaminated water and “never drink, prepare food, cook, or make ice with untreated surface water,” according to the DEC. Ryan said Cortland County has closed beaches in the past to treat algal blooms and will continue to monitor the situation with help from the state’s reports.

“We’re keeping a close eye on it,” Ryan said.