Harmful Algal Blooms

Arrival of Harmful Algal Blooms Calls For Unprecedented Protective Actions

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) have now been confirmed on our Lake several times since the fall of 2020. And while these blooms have been relatively small and short-lived — and, thus far, non-toxic — we must face an unsettling fact:

When it comes to the massive, persistent and sometimes toxic blooms that have devastated lakes and lake-based economies across our state and country, Lake George could be headed toward a similar fate without concerted action.

It’s up to all of us as Lake Protectors — that means all property owners in the basin — to hold HABs at bay, by reducing the amount of algae-feeding nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus, that enter our Lake via stormwater runoff from our properties and from aging, failing and improperly designed septic systems.

While we’re personalizing Lake protection on our properties, scientists from The Jefferson Project — the world-leading environmental research collaboration of the LGA, IBM Research and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute — are working to pinpoint the reason for these sudden and frightening blooms.

Map progressing through the last decade, showing a significant growth in harmful algal blooms throughout New York

New York State is the epicenter of the nation’s harmful algal bloom crisis with a tenfold increase in the number of waterbodies experiencing a bloom over the past 10 years and $6 billion in mitigation expense and lost economic value.

What Are Harmful Algal Blooms?

A HAB is a dense concentration of cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae) that typically presents itself as a green film on the surface of the water. Cyanobacteria are microscopic organisms that live in all water bodies but multiply quickly and spread across the surface in dense clusters under certain conditions; namely, in calm, warm waters rich in nutrients like those that enter the Lake from stormwater runoff and aging, failing and improperly designed septic systems.

How Are They Harmful?

HABs can be harmful in a number of ways. Most frighteningly, some HABs become toxic and can make humans and animals sick if they drink or swim in the poisoned water. Non-toxic HABs, like those we’ve experienced on Lake George, can obscure the sunlight and consume the oxygen that other organisms need to survive. HABs can also be harmful to a lake-based economy by turning the water green and dissuading people from swimming, boating, and fishing.

What Should I Do If I See a Possible HAB?

First, be sure to stay away. If you have been in the water near a possible HAB, rinse yourself with fresh water as soon as possible. Then, report the sighting immediately to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. We would also appreciate you reporting it on our site to keep us informed and ready to coordinate with DEC.

Jefferson Project Brings World-Class Science to Understanding the Lake George HABs

Since shortly after an LGA Community Scientist reported the first HAB confirmed on Lake George in November 2020, scientists and engineers from The Jefferson Project at Lake George have been utilizing lake surveys, advanced sensors, and some of the world’s most sophisticated computer modeling to determine the precipitating factors that finally brought this tremendous water quality threat to our Lake.

The Jefferson Project has made Lake George “The Smartest Lake in the World,” specifically to inform its sustained protection and make Lake George a model for what freshwater protection requires, applying state-of-the-art research and technology to deliver breakthrough solutions. Established in 2013, the Project has deployed more than 50 sophisticated monitoring platforms and more than 500 individual “Smart Sensors” throughout the entire 32-mile lake and surrounding watershed. These sensors monitor the weather, the streams that feed the lake, the water conditions from the lake surface to the lake bottom, and the circulation patterns of the water.