ITHACA, N.Y. – Following reports of a suspected algal bloom at Taughannock Falls State Park, the swimming area has been closed for the weekend until further notice.
Cayuga Lake is currently being monitored for Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB’s), a visually identifiable bacteria which is blue or green in color and slightly resembles wet paint.
People are advised to steer clear of the toxic bacteria, which is especially harmful to elderly people, those with weaker immune systems, dogs, and other pets according to Fred Bonn, director of the Finger Lakes State Park Region.
Taughannock, which was open to the public on Friday morning, was closed by the afternoon after a bloom was spotted off the shore, Bonn said.
While the bloom has not yet been confirmed to be toxic, the beach will be closed through the weekend until test results come in next week.
“Our protocol is to observe the water in the supervised swim area,” Bonn said. “If someone observes a HAB, we close the beach, then we conduct the test.”
He said typically results from the test take up to 36 hours to get back to the park. Since it’s being sent over the weekend, and the park is a supervised swim area, the park will likely be closed until at least Monday.
“It’s something we unfortunately have no control over,” Bonn said. “It’s all based on water temperature, wind direction, water quality, and it can be very sporadic.”
Claire Weston, outreach coordinator of the Community Science Institute, said there have been other reported blooms on the southern end of Cayuga Lake, but none with confirmed toxicity at this point.
Weston said CSI has been regularly updating a map of the reported blooms on the lake with points that indicate suspicious blooms, confirmed blooms, and confirmed blooms with high toxins.
For the source of the map and more information, visit CSI’s Harmful Algal Bloom information page.
Weston said toxicity tests typically run every Tuesday of the week, and results are often ready by the end of the day. For a bloom to be considered toxic, the HAB must contain 25 micrograms of chlorophyll-A per liter of water, according to Weston. Yellow points on the map indicate a sighting of a suspicious bloom, but may not be considered toxic, she said.
With a warm weekend coming up, along with the Dragon Boat Festival at Taughannock, both Weston and Bonn said other general plans don’t have to change.
“Theres a distinction between bathing and recreational use of the water,” Bonn said, adding that the festival will go on at Taughannock.
During Taughannock’s temporary closure, Bonn said Buttermilk Falls State Park will be opened up mid-week as well, instead of the usual weekend-only hours.
“If you see anything, avoid it and report it,” Weston said. “Other than that, we have the most up-to-date knowledge, and from what I know, there are no excessively toxic areas.”
For more information about Harmful Algal Blooms, visit the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network.
If anyone does spot a suspicious bloom, they should stay out of the water and report it to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation at HABsinfo@dec.ny.gov. People can also report blooms to the Cayuga Watershed Network at firstname.lastname@example.org. People are advised to send pictures, the location (GPS coordinates are preferable) along with the date and time.
Featured image provided.