Some types of algae can produce toxins that can be harmful to people and animals. Algal blooms that produce toxins are known as Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs). Environmental conditions that contribute to the formation of HABs in bodies of water include excess nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen), lots of sunlight, calm water conditions, and warmer temperatures.
For the past few summers, Harmful Algal Blooms have been identified in many Cayuga County lakes including Skaneateles, Cayuga, and Owasco Lakes. In Cayuga County, Owasco Lake is the source of public drinking water for the City of Auburn, Town of Owasco and surrounding municipalities who purchase their public drinking water from Auburn or Owasco. Cayuga Lake is the source of water for Wells College and the Village of Aurora. In addition, many residents use water drawn from these three lakes for their own private water supply.
In September and October of 2016, low-levels of toxins as a result of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) were found in the public drinking water produced by both the City of Auburn and Town of Owasco. The toxin levels remained low enough, based on current research, for the water to be considered safe for drinking. In 2017, both the City of Auburn and the Town of Owasco installed carbon treatment systems that are designed to remove toxins associated with HABs from the drinking water.
The information provided in the following answers is based on current science from the New York State Department of Health, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Environmental Protection Agency.