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First HAB Reported on Northern Lake George

First HAB Reported on Northern Lake George October 4, 2023
A harmful algal bloom photographed in Bolton Landing, Oct. 2022.
A harmful algal bloom photographed in Bolton Landing, Oct. 2022.

A harmful algal bloom has been found on northern Lake George, the Lake George Association has announced.

It is the first time that a HAB has been documented on the less-developed end of the lake, said Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky.

The Department of Environmental Conservation identified the suspicious concentration of matter as blue-green algae or cyanobacteria of the genus Dolichospermum fuscum, Navitsky said.

The Jefferson Project is currently analyzing samples of the bloom to determine its level of toxicity, the LGA stated in a press release.

To date, none of the Lake George blooms discovered in Lake George since 2020 have been found to be toxic, the LGA stated.

Navitsky and LGA Water Quality Research Manager Brea Arvidson observed the 50 ft long HAB in Oneida Bay on September 12.

On that same day, blooms were detected in Huddle Bay and Basin Bay in Bolton by Jefferson Project researchers, the LGA stated.

Blooms were observed in both those bays in 2022 on October 26 and were reported to Navitsky, who submitted the information to the DEC and the Department of Health.

With more intense storms washing more nutrients, more frequently, into the lake, largely as a result of climate change, outbreaks of HABs will become annual and perhaps bi-annual events, said Mike Kelly, a Senior Research Engineer with the Jefferson Project

The recurring HABs on Lake George prompted the LGA in 2022 to create AlgaeWatch, a program that asks residents to monitor their bays and shorelines for any indication of harmful algal blooms.

According to Navitsky, HABs can surface anywhere, but they may also disappear quickly, before samples can be taken, identified and tested for toxicity.

“That’s why this program, which sets in motion a rapid response, is so beneficial,” he said.

There is no single cause of HABs, says Dr. John E. Kelly III, the member of the LGA’s Board of Directors who co-founded the Jefferson Project as head of IBM’s research. There are, however, several, often necessary but not sufficient conditions to produce them, on Lake George and other freshwater bodies, such as Skaneateles and Chautauqua, which Jefferson Project researchers have also studied.

A specific series of weather events, for instance,  led to the first confirmed sightings of harmful algal blooms in Lake George in November, 2022, and Jefferson Project researchers have now identified the sources of those events.

Those same researchers are now completing models that can predict the emergence of HABs as far as 25 days in advance.

Both models are built on IBM’s Watson AI platform. One model looks at the sources of the nutrients that feed algae growth. The data show they come primarily from streams. When the nutrients enter the lake, they sink down and then spread out, creating a “breeding ground” for blooms along the bottom.  The second model uses data from high-frequency lake sensors.  

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