Harmful Algal Bloom on Lake George

Lake George recorded a Harmful Algal Bloom in November 2020.

This is a serious problem. We have serious work ahead.

The appearance is an alarm bell for the watershed.

You can see our most recent news releases on the HAB here: https://www.lakegeorgeassociation.org/category/harmful-algal-blooms/

The New York State DEC and the testing by the Jefferson Project have confirmed our initial identification of the cyanobacteria that caused the Harmful Algal Bloom: a type of Dolichospermum, seen below.

Dolichospermum is planktonic – a single cell cyanobacteria that floats and moves on its own in the water like plankton. It is a common cyanobacteria.

When it blooms, Dolichospermum can produce toxins that can affect nerves, liver, and irritate skin.

The cyanobacteria Dolichospermums, pictured, came from the water samples taken by the LGA
in Harris Bay on Monday. The photo was also taken on an LGA office microscope.

As the investigation continues into the outbreak, we will continue to talk about the importance of limiting nutrients in the water and will share ways to make that possible. The critical project work performed by the LGA and others just got more important.

We are thankful that the LGA member who raised the question was familiar with normal water conditions, and knew that there was something amiss and reported it.

That is one reason why we stress the importance of the LGA’s focus on Education and Outreach.

We are enlisting an army to help us prevent nutrient flow everywhere – because while we are eleven towns and one village, we are all one Lake.

First, a little about Harmful Algal Blooms.

What is a Harmful Algal Bloom?

Despite the name, Harmful Algal Blooms aren’t really made up of algae. They are made up of a blue-green bacteria called cyanobacteria. In many cases, the algae are difficult to see without a microscope.

Cyanobacteria are naturally present in virtually all water bodies. LGA Water Quality testing over the past 16 years has picked up low levels of cyanobacteria in all of the areas where we test.

The problem happens when the bacteria start to multiply very quickly – creating the bloom.

As the cyanobacteria multiply, they can create toxins in the water, which the US Centers For Disease Control and Prevention says are among the most powerful poisons known.

Specific triggers are not clear, but what is clear that certain conditions are needed:

  • Warm water
  • Slow moving or still water
  • Sunlight
  • Abundance of nutrients

Of the four ingredients, the only thing that we can control on Lake George is the amount of nutrients being added to the Lake.

We all need to stop allowing nutrients into the Lake in order to prevent another HAB from forming.

In the meantime, we encourage residents to follow the DEC’s guidance to Know it. Avoid it. Report It.

Know It – HABs vary in appearance, and may not necessarily be deep green. It can appear as anything as scattered green dots in the water to long, linear green streaks, pea soup or spilled green paint to blue-green or white coloration. Sometimes, the bloom is made more evident as it concentrates on the surface of the Lake as a scum or a mat. Sometimes, it appears like pollen on the surface.

Avoid It – People, pets and livestock should avoid contact with water that is discolored or has algal scums on the surface.

Report It – If members of the public suspect a HAB on Lake George, report it to the Lake George Association and through the NYHABS online reporting form available on DEC’s HABs webpage.

Q: What happened?

A: Harmful Algal Bloom was recorded as having formed on Lake George for the first time.

Q: What does that mean?

A: Lake George historically has never had a HAB. It means that for the first time, the conditions were right (warm water, still water, sunlight, abundant nutrients) for natural cyanobacteria in the Lake, identified as Dolichospermum – what DEC calls a common cyanobacteria found in HABS in other Lakes in New York State.

Q: Lake George has cyanobacteria?

A: Because Lake George is a natural lake, it has various forms of microscopic life, including cyanobacteria. Our water quality monitoring program shows the extent of it in recent years

Q: What was the extent of the bloom? Where was it located?

The LGA staff first saw a Harmful Algal Bloom along the shoreline on the east side of Assembly Point and in Harris Bay — DEC has confirmed the bloom there. Photo evidence has also shown a DEC-confirmed Harmful Algal Bloom at Clay Island in late October.

Q: What is LGA doing?

A: We are continuing our observations, convening discussions among Lake partners, and are reviewing and revising our action plans and project plans for 2021 and beyond to ensure we are doing everything we can to stop nutrients from getting into the Lake – especially in polluted stormwater.

Q: What can I do?

There are a number of easy steps that anyone can do (or in some cases, not do) to prevent nutrients from getting into the Lake.

  • Don’t blow or rake leaves into the Lake or streams
  • Stop using fertilizer in the watershed
  • Get your septic system inspected, fix it if it is failing
  • Plan to install a rain garden or shoreline buffer to capture polluted stormwater
  • Keep storm drains clear of debris
  • Join us or renew your membership: membership support allows us to protect the Lake

We’ve all got to act now if we want to protect the water quality of our Lake.

You Can Make A Difference In Lake George Water Quality Right Outside Your Door! Contribute Now

All the money raised by the Lake George Association goes to projects and programs that benefit the Lake and the watershed, protecting Lake George water quality now and in the future.
Lake George Association

Lake George Association