Cyanobacteria, commonly referred to as blue green algae or harmful algae blooms (HABs), occur in freshwater lakes, ponds, and surface waters worldwide. A combination of factors allow the bacteria to grow into blooms that can be harmful to human and animal health and degrade our water quality:
- Phosphorus and nitrogen inputs (nutrients) from the surrounding watershed fuel algal growth.
- Calm, sunny weather creates ideal cyanobacteria growing conditions.
- Dreissenid mussels (zebra and quagga mussels) have been altering our lake ecosystems and don’t filter cyanobacteria out of the water.
- Nutrients originate in the watershed and have many sources. Reducing nutrients from the watershed is the only strategy we have to help limit our impact.
What to look for:
Use visual cues to identify harmful algae blooms. They can appear like pea soup, spilled paint, globs, or surface streaks. The color is typically green, blue-green, or yellow, but can also be brown, red or purple. Visit the DEC photo gallery to learn more about identifying blooms.
Some HABs are capable of producing toxins, called cyanotoxins, which can pose health risks to humans and animals. Exposure to cyanobacteria and their toxins can occur by contact (touching, swallowing, and inhaling), during water recreation, drinking water, and household use. Pets (especially dogs) are very susceptible to the toxins associated with blooms as they are likely to drink surface waters when swimming and may also be exposed when grooming themselves after a swim in the lake.
It’s very important to remember: If you see bloom conditions, avoid it! Blooms can appear quickly in the lake when the conditions are just right. Please use your visual indicators before recreating in the water – stay safe and avoid it. Be especially careful to scan the waterfront before pets and children enter the water!
Please check out these resources to learn more about HABs and our Health:
- Blue Green Algae and Health Guide from the NYS Department of Health
- Dogs and Harmful Algae Blooms Brochure from Sea Grant
- HABs may look like green parallel streaks on the water surface, or have a spilled paint or pea soup appearance. Check out the DEC webpage to learn how to ID HABs.
- Always stay away from blooms in surface waters. Never swim, fish, boat, wade or eat fish caught in areas with blooms.
- The Department of Health cautions residents to never drink untreated surface water, bloom or no bloom.
- If you think that a bloom may be harmful and is present on Canandaigua Lake, take a photo and report it to HABs@canandaigualakeassoc.org. Please include the location where the photo was taken. Public reports assist in the ongoing monitoring activities on the lake.
COMMUNITY DISCUSSION ON HARMFUL ALGAE BLOOMS
The Canandaigua Lake Watershed Association and the Canandaigua Lake Watershed Council co-hosted a community discussion on HAB events on Canandaigua Lake. A panel of experts each presented a powerpoint, followed by a question and answer session. The experts discussed the science behind HABs and the sequence of events on Canandaigua Lake. Video and presentations are below.