Friday, November 13, 2020

Harmful algal blooms found on Lake George, Mirror Lake

In an unfortunate coincidence that may be no coincidence at all given the warm temperatures, two of the region’s famed lakes have been partly covered by harmful algal blooms in the past several days.

The first is Lake George, which hadn’t had a confirmed algal bloom on its surface.

The second is Mirror Lake, the lake at the center of the Village of Lake Placid. This algal bloom could also be a first for that lake.

I’ve been writing about the potential for harmful algal blooms to strike Adirondack lakes over the past year, starting with a look at the worst case scenario, which is what years of runoff have done to Lake Champlain. That story include a quick primer on what we’re talking about:

In lakes around the world and close to home, the tiny floating cells threaten public health and property values. That’s because toxic outbreaks or “blooms” of cyanobacteria, often mistaken for and even called algae, are getting worse.

In Ohio, residents of Toledo couldn’t drink their water for several days in 2014, because it was drawn from a bacteria-filled Lake Erie. In New Jersey, bacteria blooms closed beaches around the state’s largest lake last summer.

New York has put a dozen lakes on a cyanobacteria watch list, including several of the Finger Lakes and two Adirondack lakes.

The first local lake, Lake George—assiduously guarded for decades by strict environmental regulations—has never had a confirmed outbreak of cyanobacteria, but such a “harmful algal bloom” could be devastating to a lake prized for its clear waters. Ironically, Lake George’s waters are painstakingly protected only to drain straight into the second local lake on the list, a lake in crisis, Lake Champlain.

Bacteria in Champlain—cupped by New York, Vermont and Quebec—are feeding on polluted runoff from around the lake, especially Vermont’s dairyland, and thriving in water that is warming along with the rest of the globe.

“They just want to eat and grow and be warm,” said Natalie Flores, a University of Vermont researcher studying the dangers of cyanobacteria.

We just posted a story on the Lake George and Mirror Lake blooms. Expect more reporting on algal blooms in coming months, but here’s the news of the day:

For years, residents and regulators around the historic resort destination, known as the Queen of American Lakes, have worried that worsening water quality would invite toxic outbreaks or “blooms” of cyanobacteria, commonly referred to as harmful algal blooms. On Monday, the state confirmed one on Lake George after it was discovered by the Lake George Association, one of several nonprofits that looks out for the lake.

The bloom spread out around Assembly Point and moved through several bays on the south end of the lake near the Village of Lake George, and was dissipating on Tuesday.

“It’s a wake-up call for us,” said the lake association’s executive director, Walter Lender. “It really lets people know that Lake George is not immune to these.”

So far, Lake George has remained relatively clear, despite years of worries that it is losing some of its famed clarity and quality.

Photo: Kristen Wilde, director of education for the Lake George Association, samples the algal bloom. Courtesy of Lake George Association

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Ry is a reporter who covered water-quality issues for the Explorer.

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