Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Late-season harmful algal blooms pop up around the Adirondacks

habs map

Pictured here: The state HABs monitoring map shows the locations and dates of confirmed harmful algal blooms across the state. Screenshot from Oct. 10.

algal blooms this fall have continued to pervade Adirondack waters, spreading to new places and recurring in some of the region’s most treasured lakes.

The Lake George Association confirmed the first bloom spotted in the lake’s narrow northern basin, and the Adirondack Watershed Institute documented numerous blooms this year in the lake belt outside the group’s backdoor.

As of this morning, a HABs tracker managed by the Department of Environmental Conservation listed harmful algal blooms on at least 19 lakes across the region, beginning as early as June in some places and lasting through early October. HABs flourish in warm and calm fall weather when sunlight and a churn of nutrients combine to spur rapid cyanobacteria growth. Last year a bloom across Mirror Lake persisted for multiple days at the end of October.

In some forms, cyanobacteria  can produce toxins harmful to humans and animals. The state Department of Environmental Conservation cautions people to avoid all algae-like formations and report any sighting.

These lakes have all experienced HABs this year: Mayfield Lake, Great Sacandaga, Lake George, Otter Lake, Bubb Lake, Raquette Lake, Blue Mountain Lake, Arbutus Pond, Whey Pond, Follensby Clear Pond, Upper Saranac Lake, Lake Clear, Spitfire Lake, Lower St. Regis Lake, Barnum Pond, Meachem Lake, Augur Lake, Indian Lake in Franklin County and Lake Champlain.


Lower St. Regis Lake in September, a few days after a harmful algal bloom was spotted there. Photo by Zachary Matson

Salt summit

Last week’s annual road salt summit in Lake George was one of the first opportunities for state officials to detail plans for moving forward with recommendations from the Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force.

The Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Conservation plan to establish new pilot projects this winter road season to test salt reduction strategies and evaluate other proposals. While both agency commissioners were unable to make it to the event, top department leaders addressed the audience in their places.

“This is a priority for the state,” said Sean Mahar, DEC executive deputy commissioner. “We are not going anywhere.”

Some audience members pressed for more details about the state’s long-term commitment to demonstrating reduced salt use, calling for greater urgency and a formal mechanism to tie the state to salt reduction goals.

This first appeared in Zach’s weekly “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to sign up.

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Zachary Matson has been an environmental reporter for the Explorer since October 2021. He is focused on the many issues impacting water and the people, plants and wildlife that rely on it in the Adirondack Park. Zach worked at daily newspapers in Missouri, Arizona and New York for nearly a decade, most recently working as the education reporter for six years at the Daily Gazette in Schenectady.

One Response

  1. Bill Ott says:

    It seems most of the marked blooms are in populated areas (even if just located near a summer camp) or along roadways. Are we to assume backcountry ponds are also infected? Would areal search be feasible?

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