Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Blue-Green Harmful Algal Blooms

August 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Summer’s heat creates an ideal condition for blue-green algal blooms (cyanobacteria) to form in freshwater lakes and ponds across Long Island. These blooms are a natural part of fresh water ecosystems, and can become massive under the right conditions of sunlight, temperature, and nutrient concentrations. They discolor the water and leave scum and floating mats upon the surface of the water.

According to Dr. Christopher J. Gobler, associate dean for research and professor at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University, cold weather does not provide a suitable environment for blue-green algal blooms to endure. They form around May, persist into the fall, and subside in the winter.

Some blue-green algal blooms are short-lived; they might appear and disappear in a matter of hours or persist for several weeks. Other blooms can be present throughout the entire summer, altering ecosystems by reducing oxygen levels, preventing the growth of beneficial algae, and producing toxins harmful to fish and other organisms. These algae are called harmful algal blooms (HABs).

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Blue-Green Algal Bloom Notices, HABs have been found in Lake Ronkonkoma, Mill Pond in Wantagh, Big Reed Pond in Montauk, and Lake Agawam in Southampton at the time of writing this story. These toxins affect health when people or animals come in contact with the water through swimming or drinking.

Indications of HABs may be subtle, appearing as parallel green streaks, dots, or globs across the water’s surface. HABs may also look akin to blue, green, or white spilled paint or may make the water look like pea soup.

blue green 2Although not all blooms produce toxins, it is recommended to avoid contact with any floating scums or discolored water and not try to determine for yourself whether it’s a HAB. Dr. Gobler warns, “If the water is green, it’s better to just stay out!”

HABs must be of concern to swimmers, parents of kids who like to play along the shore, and pet owners who let their dogs wade in. Recalling a dog’s death in 2012 after lapping up HABs, Dr. Gobler warns against dogs drinking the water on the shorelines of freshwater lakes and ponds or anywhere else where algal blooms are present.

Boaters, paddlers, and rowers should be cautious of algal blooms and consider any warning for swimmers to apply to them as well. Despite not being directly in contact with the water, an accidental fall into a heavily discolored lake or pond might pose health risks, including gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea; skin or throat irritation; allergic reactions; and/or breathing difficulties. Symptoms for dogs may include disorientation, depression, seizures, convulsions, paralysis, excessive salivation or drooling, elevated heart rate, and/or difficulty breathing. Those exposed to HABs should seek medical help if they experience any symptoms.

Everyone can do their part to reduce HABs, advises Dr. Gobler, by using fewer fertilizers on their lawns. When it rains, fertilizer washes off lawns and into our waterways, contributing to the growth of harmful algal blooms.

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Learn more

http://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/water/drinking/bluegreenalgae.htm 

http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/water pdf/habspets.pdf 

http://www.seagrant.sunysb.edu/Images/Uploads/PDFs/themeareas/CComm-Habitat/BTRI/Fall09-HABs.pdf 

http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/77118.html 

http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/83310.html 

http://www.suffolkcountyny.gov/Departments/HealthServices/EnvironmentalQuality/Ecology/MarineWaterQualityMonitoring/HarmfulAlgalBlooms.aspx

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