State will try HAB removal process
NEW YORK STATE--Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week the launch of a new pilot project to combat harmful algal blooms (HABs). The pilot program is directed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Office of General Services in partnership with the village of Southampton on Long Island. The state says if the project is successful, the technology could be used elsewhere in the state.
In recent years, the Finger Lakes region has experienced algal bloom activity which has closed public swimming areas and prompted scientists and volunteers to increase monitoring of the lakes. The Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association has even been alerting local residents and media with a weekly bloom watch update during the peak season. Their website features a map of the region which shows reports and photos of algal blooms as well as spreadsheets of the activity on Seneca Lake. There were over 90 confirmed HABs this year for Seneca. Penn Yan's public swimming areas on Keuka Lake were closed multiple times during the summer because of HABs.
New York has committed $82 million to study, respond to and prevent HABs in state waterbodies.
"Safeguarding New York's water quality is a top priority and we are providing direct assistance to communities to swiftly and effectively respond to harmful algal blooms," Cuomo said. "We are deploying new and innovative tools like the HABs harvester to address the algal blooms in Agawam Lake, and will continue exploring the latest technology to eliminate these blooms altogether and keep waterbodies around the state clean and safe. If this pilot works, then we will bring it up to scale and apply it across the state wherever possible."
The mobile algae harvester will separate algae and other substances from the water and return the resulting filtered and improved water to the lake to abate the HAB. The algae harvester uses technology that is often employed within drinking water plants.
Agawam Lake, a scenic recreational park in the village of Southampton, is suffering from algae blooms that threaten the lake's water quality. HABs have been reported in the lake each year since at least 2013. This algae harvester, which has been used successfully in other states, is being piloted to see if it will help remove algae from the lake. The algae harvester will be temporarily installed at Agawam Lake Park and is expected to be operational for two weeks. The DEC will sample and closely monitor the lake for changes while the pilot project is being conducted.
Most algae blooms are harmless. However, exposure to toxins and other substances from certain HABs can make people and animals sick. The increasing frequency and duration of HABs also threatens water quality and recreational use of waterbodies essential to ecosystem health and statewide tourism. HABs have been detected in more than 400 water bodies since 2012.
In 2018, four summits brought together national, state, and local experts to discuss how to reduce the frequency of these blooms. Following Governor Cuomo's 2018 State of the State announcement, state agencies allocated more than $82 million in competitive grants for projects to address nutrient pollution in water bodies that have been affected by HABs. These funds are in addition to a multi-year HABs research, advanced monitoring, and pilot programs initiated in 2018 at a cost of approximately $11 million. These expenditures do not include funding allocated for day-to-day drinking water quality monitoring and response undertaken by water purveyors in response to a specific HAB event.
When it comes to HABs, the DEC encourages New Yorkers to "KNOW IT, AVOID IT, REPORT IT." KNOW IT--HABs vary in appearance from scattered green dots in the water, to long, linear green streaks, pea soup or spilled green paint, to blue-green or white coloration. AVOID IT--People, pets and livestock should avoid contact with water that is discolored or has algal scums on the surface. REPORT IT--If members of the public suspect a HAB, report it through the NYHABs online reporting form available on DEC's website. Symptoms or health concerns related to HABs should be reported to DOH at email@example.com.
While the exact cause of HABs is not fully understood, HABs usually occur in waters high in phosphorus and/or nitrogen. New York state has many programs and activities to reduce phosphorus and nitrogen from entering the water from surrounding lands, including stormwater permitting programs, funding for water quality improvement projects, and a nutrient law that restricts the use of phosphorus lawn fertilizer.