Harmful Algal Blooms
Harmful algal blooms have been common in recent years during the latter half of the summer on lakes within Cayuga County.
Harmful algal blooms, also known as cyanobacteria, are of concern as they can produce toxins that could pose a health risk to people and animals when they are exposed to them in large enough quantities. Health effects could occur when the blooms are swallowed while swimming or through contact with the skin.
Consuming water containing high levels of harmful algal blooms has been associated with effects on the liver and on the nervous system in laboratory animals, pets, livestock, and people. Direct contact or breathing airborne droplets containing high levels of harmful algal bloom toxins during swimming or showering can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose and throat and inflammation in the respiratory tract.
Pet owners should keep their pets away from water experiencing algae blooms. If animals ingest the toxins either through drinking or cleaning their fur after exposure, they can become sick quickly.
As a reminder, the Cayuga County Health Department encourages the community and visitors to: Know It, Avoid It and Report It.
Surface water that is discolored with a paint-like or filmy appearance or floating scum should always be avoided as they are potentially harmful. Images of these types of blooms as well as non-harmful blooms can be viewed by visiting the Department of Environmental Conservation.
Weather influences where harmful algae blooms will occur. During extended periods of calm and sunny days, blooms can accumulate at the surface in any location. Wind and waves may cause them to form along shorelines or in protected areas. Shifts in wind direction can move a bloom from one location to another. Periods of cool rainy weather can often lead to the disappearance of a bloom.
Always stay away from blooms in surface waters. Never swim, fish, boat, wade or eat fish caught in areas with blooms. Bloom or no bloom, never drink, prepare food, cook, or make ice with untreated or improperly treated individual surface water supplies.
During a bloom, individual surface water supplies should not be used for showering, bathing, or washing dishes even if treatment is provided. Public water supplies that draw water from surface water are treated, disinfected and monitored. The public would be notified if public water supplies are impacted by algal blooms.
If you think that a bloom may be harmful and is present on Owasco Lake, the Cayuga County Health Department asks that you report it to the Owasco Lake Watershed Inspection Program at 315-427-5188 or 315-237-2066.
Outside of Cayuga County
If the bloom is present on another water body in Cayuga County, please report via email New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). Other lakes do not have their own watershed inspectors which is why the public should contact NYSDEC.