Central New York, Environment, Health, Public Safety

Officials are Testing Algae Blooms in Skaneateles Lake for Harmful Toxins

A swimmer jumps into Skaneateles Lake. Algae blooms have popped up recently in the lake which makes swimming risky (c) 2005 AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli

Click the play button above to learn about the possible dangers of algae blooms in the Skaneateles Lake

Audio transcript: LaRowe algae wrap

By Jonathan LaRowe SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – For the second straight year, harmful algae blooms have popped up in Skaneateles Lake. Officials are testing the blooms for toxins that could be harmful if ingested by humans.

Multiple beaches in Skaneateles will be closed for swimming while officials test the blooms. Skaneateles Lake is a primary source of drinking water for people in the area and the presence of potentially harmful algae blooms could create a major issue for the drinking water.

Evan Weissman, assistant professor of food studies at Syracuse University, said the drinking water from the lake has largely been safe for local residents. Last year was the first time the presence of the blue-green algae threatened the drinking water.

“In the case of Skaneateles Lake, it has for a long time really been a pristine water source and has allowed us to largely not have to treat the water because of its high quality,” Weissman said. “Health officials in particular are quite concerned because it’s a major source of drinking water in central New York.”

Weissman said agricultural practices in the area are a main contributing factor to the presence of harmful algae blooms in the water.

“We should consider agriculture to be the most prominent culprit in providing the nutrient loads that are causing concern in the water,” Weissman said.

Weissman also warned about the dangers of letting pets in the water.

“If your dog goes swimming, the dog is likely to lick themselves clean thus ingesting large amounts of cyanobacteria,” Weissman said.

Weissman said regulating the algae blooms in the water supply can be very hard. He cited climate change and increased water temperature as two things that are very difficult to control.