In 2018, Harmful Algal Blooms On Cayuga Lake Increased Five-Fold Over The Year Before

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ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – Significantly more harmful algal blooms were reported on Cayuga Lake this year than in 2017. A local non-profit reports the 2018 blooms were more likely to contain toxins harmful humans and small mammals, like cats and dogs.

Community Science Institute/Ithaca, New York

A volunteer monitor collecting a same from a harmful algal bloom on Cayuga Lake in summer, 2018.

This is the first such Harmful Algal Blooms Monitoring Program report issued by the Ithaca-based Community Science Institute.

Over the summer, the program trained 75 volunteers to monitor specific areas of the lake. Their findings were verified by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The number of confirmed harmful algal blooms increased five-fold from 8 in 2017 to forty in 2018. Program coordinator Nathaniel Launer said this increase is only partly explained by better monitoring.

“It’s impossible to say how much of this is due to better surveillance on Cayuga Lake,” Launer said, “but it certainly does appear like the trend is toward more blooms on Cayuga Lake than less.”

Community Science Center/Ithaca, New York

Map showing 2018 sites of one of the toxins found in harmful algal blooms

Researchers also found more types of toxins that can  affect the liver and cause illness. People or animals are exposed to the toxins through recreational activities or drinking contaminated water.

“There was a clear trend towards blooms being more toxic,” Launer said. “In the later months of the summer — in August and September — than blooms that occurred in July and the earlier part of August.

The Community Science Institute hosts a forum on Saturday, December 15, in Ithaca to explain their research.