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A new program empowers people to do more to battle harmful blue-green algae threatening the Finger Lakes.
GORHAM — It’s approaching that crucial late-summer time on the Finger Lakes for the presence of blue-green algae.
Hot weather has been warming the waters and if conditions are right, it could spark a harmful algae bloom. Canandaigua and Seneca lakes had their first recorded toxic bloom a few years ago and waterways across the nation are battling the threat to tourism and the health of people and pets.
In 2017, every one of the 11 Finger Lakes experienced a harmful algae bloom.
This summer, more boots are on the ground to fight it. Shoreline monitoring by citizens around the lakes is giving scientists additional information and more quickly. This past week, Lindsay McMillan, administrative coordinator with the Canandaigua Lake Watershed Association, joined two volunteers in the shoreline monitoring program to show how it works.
The new program on Canandaigua Lake has 16 volunteers. All are trained by CLWA and the state Department of Environmental Conservation to sample and report harmful algae blooms (HABs). Information collected contributes to research in the Finger Lakes region and also plays a big part in getting people involved, McMillan said.
Last Monday, no HABs were found on a stretch of shoreline in Crystal Beach on Canandaigua Lake where McMillan met up with volunteers Lynn Klotz and Sally Napolitano. (As of this past week no HABs were suspected anywhere on the lake.)
Both residents of Gorham, the pair were instrumental in identifying a HAB program developed on Seneca Lake. The program there took off in 2014 and now has more than 80 volunteers monitoring the Seneca Lake shoreline that covers some 70 miles. The monitoring program new to Canandaigua Lake is modeled after the one on Seneca, said McMillan. Like Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association, CLWA is partnering with the DEC on the program. Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva is also involved with its experts and technology.
Weekly monitoring on Canandaigua Lake runs for nine weeks and will wrap up at the end of September. McMillan said the lake is broken down into “red zones,” or areas where blue-green algae tends to go. The lake has 36 miles of shoreline and is broken down into 18 zones.
Even people who are not trained monitors can help in the cause. You can report suspicious algal activity on Canandaigua Lake at HABs@canandaigualakeassoc.org. If you suspect a bloom, you can send a photo to that email address along with the location the bloom was seen. The email address is monitored by McMillan, Watershed Program Manager Kevin Olvany, and volunteers Klotz and Napolitano.
One of them will respond to the report and “the information will help us assess lake conditions and make informed decisions on sampling,” McMillan said.
To learn more, visit http://www.canandaigualakeassoc.org/.
You can report suspicious algal activity on Canandaigua Lake at HABs@canandaigualakeassoc.org. If you suspect a bloom, you can send a photo to that email address along with the location the bloom was seen.