The Lake Champlain Committee’s (LCC) 2019 cyanobacteria monitoring season gets underway the week of June 16. Everyone who uses, enters, or goes near the Lake Champlain should have a general awareness of cyanobacteria, often referred to as blue-green algae.
These are a wide group of organisms, including species that are native, common and natural, but under certain conditions can create extensive blooms that can be a potential health hazard. Cyanobacteria warnings are posted each summer in Lake Champlain and other local lakes.
Compounds produced by cyanobacteria can trigger skin irritations and gastro-intestinal illness, may cause itching and irritation of eyes, nose, or throat. Some species produce toxins that affect the liver, while other species’ compounds affect the nervous system. Cyanobacteria toxins are also suspected carcinogens. LCC monitors provide data on lake health from over 100 Lake Champlain and inland lake sites.
The LCC offers cyanobacteria information sessions to learn how to distinguish cyanobacteria from other floating phenomena, or to serve as a lake monitor (which is not required). Contact LCC here to sign up for a session, or to volunteer to monitor Lake Champlain cyanobacteria during the 2019 season. From mid-June through the the fall, LCC sends out weekly emails about conditions lake monitors are reporting. You can sign up here to receive them.
New York State launched its own online Harmful Algal Blooms, or “HABs,” map and reporting system for the public. The reporting system features an interactive map that is updated daily with reports of HABs, as well as a new public reporting form, which you can find here.
LCC developed their cyanobacteria volunteer monitoring program for Lake Champlain in 2003. The focus of the program is to raise awareness of the issue, build a database of information on bloom frequency, and identify and publicize potential health hazards. LCC coordinates with the health departments of Vermont and New York, environmental and recreational agencies, and the Lake Champlain Basin Program to annually provide training. They also conduct trainings for state and municipal park staff, town health officers, and public water supply operators.
LCC’s cyanobacteria training sessions run for about two to two and a half hours depending on group size and questions. Topics covered in the training include:
- Triggers for cyanobacteria blooms
- How blooms develop and what they look like
- How to differentiate cyanobacteria from other lake phenomena
- Health and environmental concerns with cyanobacteria
- Where blooms are most likely to occur and why
- What to do when you see a bloom or suspect one is developing
- LCC visual assessment protocols
- How to file a report if you see a bloom
- Actions to help prevent blooms
- the guide to categorizing blooms,
- instructions for photographing blooms and taking a water sample, and
- how to recognize cyanobacteria blooms
If you see what you think is a cyanobacteria bloom, you can report it using LCC’s online form. Be sure to include pictures and detailed narrative explanation to help verify the report.