Harmful Algae Blooms on Cayuga Lake, early August 2017

This is the second summer 2017 installment of information and updates about Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs) for the Cayuga Lake area. 

Scroll down to view the information links provided in the July 25 first installment.

The boating, paddling, and swimming public experienced HABs blooms across a wide area of southern Cayuga Lake over the past week. Last weekend, two dozen Cayuga Lake reports were submitted to DEC’s HABs report page, from Aurora south: HABsInfo@dec.ny.gov . DEC’s Scott Kishbaugh reports that their HABs work has been totally Cayuga Lake focused since last Saturday . He is very grateful for the public response, but sorry about the cause.


When DEC receives these reports, they send out qualified, trained people (DEC personnel and or/trained volunteers) to survey, take samples, and submit samples to DEC for analysis as to whether or not the bloom is toxic. This past week, the main responders on the southern end of Cayuga were trained volunteers Don Sargent and Shannon Barrett. A trained surveillance group is in place at the north end of the lake, led by Bill Ebert of Canoga. David Wolfe and others are on alert mid-lake. Here is a brief August 1 field report from Don Sargent:

"I sent in two samples of suspected HAB's one just south of Ithaca Yacht Club and one at Red Lighthouse at the entrance to the inlet. We observed where extensive blooms were out on the lake but were now blown ashore by the time of our cruise. They were the same color as the one south of Yacht club ( photos sent to you yesterday) which is one of the samples. They extended from just north of Myers Pt to about three miles south of there. While being blown ashore they were now about five to ten feet from shore and also up on the banks and beaches.
These must have been very extensive and covered very large areas to be covering that long of a shoreline. The lake in general looked very green and seemed almost thick with green color and very small particles. Nothing seen at Taughannock Pt but whatever could have been there was now part of what was seen at Myers Pt as the wind was NNW at about 10 knots.
Don Sargent
Cayuga Lake # 2.”

Photos are attached (if you do not receive them, please send an email to steward@cayugalake.org).


Following reports and sampling from Don Sargent, the Floating Classroom, and numerous others, with beach closure decisions by county-level Departments of Health, Scott Kishbaugh shared this midweek summary: "As you all know, blooms have been popping up in several locations in Cayuga Lake. The outreach conducted by several county DOH’s, the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network, CSI, DEC and others has directed a lot of attention to the issue and substantially increased the volume of reports. Some of these have been accompanied by digital pictures or videos, while others have been mostly narrative descriptions. At least two of these blooms have been confirmed through testing at SUNY ESF, and others have been inspected microscopically by present or retired Cornell faculty with cyanobacteria taxa observed to dominate the blooms. In addition, there are a few additional samples collected yesterday and submitted to SUNY ESF, and one additional site that may be sampled tomorrow. We will provide those results upon receipt from the lab.” 

Tompkins County Dept. of Health provides info about closures at beaches and parks: http://www.tompkinscountyny.gov/health

Cayuga County Dept. of Health’s HABs info: http://www.cayugacounty.us/Community/Health/Environmental-Health/Blue-Green-Algae

You can call the Environmental Health Division of the Cayuga County Health Department at 315-253-1560.

Scroll down for more Health Department information links.


These blooms may take place until cooler temperatures prevail. The blooms come and go, as lake conditions change. 

More information about the “why/what/where/when” is available at the links below.

This changing situation means that you must use common sense as to whether or not to swim and boat on/in Cayuga Lake. 

If you have access to an area of our beautiful lake that is not publicly managed, and you wonder if it is safe to go in, ask yourself:

  • “Is the water clear or murky? Are any of the tell-tale bright green algae forms visible [scroll down for links to photos]?”
  • If the water is clear and no vivid green algae are present, then enjoy the water.
  • BUT watch for changes, because a bloom may arise rapidly.
  • Do NOT ingest lake water, and do not drink lake well water, even if you are doing the full-blown home treatment process. 
  • Last fall, HABs toxins made it through the water treatment plant process in Auburn:  http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2016/09/29/toxin-in-drinking-water-sets-off-alarm-bells/91218684/


The Tompkins County Department of Health requests that you contact them if you are planning a water-focused event, so that they can help you have a safe time: http://www.tompkinscountyny.gov/health

The Community Science Institute of Ithaca is posting the latest HABs info at their website: http://www.communityscience.org/2017/07/31/harmful-algal-blooms-what-they-are-how-to-spot-them-and-what-to-do-if-you-suspect-youve-encountered-a-bloom/

The 4th Annual HABs Conference is being held on August 9 in Geneva. You may register here: https://www.usgbc.org/event/seminar-finger-lakes-harmful-algal-blooms-habs

Thank you,


Hilary Lambert
Steward/Executive Director
Cayuga Lake Watershed Network
POB 348 Aurora NY 13026

“It takes a Network to protect a watershed!”