Harmful algal bloom found on Lake George

Harmful algal bloom was initially spotted Saturday on the east side of Assembly Point on Lake George. (Photo courtesy Lake George Association)

Harmful algal bloom was initially spotted Saturday on the east side of Assembly Point on Lake George. (Photo courtesy Lake George Association)

LAKE GEORGE — The presence of a harmful algal bloom on Lake George has been identified by the Lake George Association and confirmed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The algal bloom appeared Saturday on the northeast side of Assembly Point in Harris Bay. The bloom quickly dissipated, but reappeared Monday and was no longer isolated.

According to Lake George Association Executive Director Walt Lender, this is the first confirmed harmful algal bloom on Lake George.

“Harmful algal blooms are certainly not something anybody would want to see in their lake,” Lender said in a phone interview Tuesday. “Lake George has been, historically, pretty free from this sort of thing. But … we were afraid that one of these things was going to happen one day. What it proves is that Lake George is not immune from these. We have to be more vigilant and stop harmful nutrients from getting into the lake, just do more to protect the lake.”

The Lake George Association was formed in 1885 as the United States’ first lake conservation organization, tasked with protecting the lake’s water quality.

In a statement, the DEC confirmed the presence of “a large, localized shoreline harmful algal bloom” on the lake. The bloom was first observed by volunteers trained in DEC’s Citizen Statewide Lake Assessment Program and later confirmed on site by DEC representatives.

The FUND for Lake George announced in a press release Tuesday that it has, with the immediate engagement of The Jefferson Project — the FUND’s environmental research collaboration with IBM and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute — also responded to the harmful bloom to help DEC’s investigation by “focusing on identifying the physical, biological, and chemical factors responsible for the bloom.”

The occurrence of the harmful algal bloom comes down to a “complex combination of factors,” Lender said, including available nutrients in the water, water chemistry, water temperature and the abundance of sunlight.

“They all have to sort of come together in exactly the right way,” Lender said, “and then suddenly these algae start to grow and become very dense. In this particular case, it’s the type of algae that could very well release toxins into the water column and be a hazard to wildlife, pets — and human contact would certainly not be recommended as well.”

In its statement, DEC said, “While there is no concern related to public drinking water regarding this bloom, the NYS Department of Health reminds residents to never drink untreated surface water.”

Currently, Lender said Lake George Association staff is attempting to figure “the full extent” of the bloom by traveling throughout the Lake George watershed and taking water samples — some of which the association is examining, others being sent to DEC’s state lab.

Lender said that the bloom has spread out from where it was initially spotted on Harris Bay to other bays and the wider part of the lake.

DEC said in its statement that while harmful algal bloom occurrences are rare at this time of year, those blooms may still occur throughout the fall and winter.

The Lake George Association has been concerned about the possibility of harmful algal blooms for several years and is a member of the state harmful algal bloom steering committee.

As harmful blooms can provide impediments for drinking water, recreation and wildlife, Lender said that this first occurrence on Lake George needs to serve as a “wake-up call” for the lakeside community to ensure they take the proper precautions against another occurrence.

“Now that it’s actually happened on Lake George, we need to be super vigilant,” he said. “People need to make sure they’re doing all that they can on their properties to make sure they’re keeping harmful nutrients from getting into the lake; putting in rain barrels, rain gardens, buffers along the shoreline, maintaining septic systems. There’s a whole slew of things people can do with their own properties to make sure these things don’t happen — or at least reduce the possibility.”

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