Harmful algal bloom

A harmful algae bloom inundates the water in the Owasco Lake outlet behind the Express Mart in Fleming on Tuesday.

Kevin Rivoli, The Citizen

Harmful algal bloom toxin testing of Owasco Lake drinking water has finished up for the season, but Onondaga County continues to test samples from Skaneateles Lake. The state Department of Environmental Conservation, too, has finished its regular bloom tests this season, according to its harmful algal bloom notifications page.

Kathleen Cuddy, director of the Cayuga County Health Department, said testing finished up on Thursday, Nov. 9, after three consecutive samples of raw water tested negative for toxins. The department has collected samples from the city of Auburn and town of Owasco's water treatment plants since July 5, sending raw and treated samples to the state Department of Health's Wadsworth Center for analysis. 

The center has tested the water for microcystin, a liver toxin that can be released from some harmful algal blooms. With the help of state-funded carbon treatment systems, neither the city nor the town had any detection of toxins in the treated drinking water except for once, which officials believe was an anomaly. There were some toxin hits in the raw Owasco Lake water entering the plants — 12 for Auburn and seven for Owasco. The majority of those occurred in October.

"We're feeling quite confident that we're done with HABs (harmful algal blooms) for the season," Cuddy said at a Cayuga County Legislature Health and Human Services Committee meeting Thursday. "Some more next year, sure."

Skaneateles Lake water continues to be tested for microcystin, with the latest samples on Nov. 2 and Nov. 7 showing no detection in the Skaneateles or Elbridge water plants. There was a slight detection on Nov. 1 in two wells of the village of Skaneateles gatehouse at 0.22 micrograms per liter and 0.32 micrograms per liter. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's 10-day health advisory for microcystin is 0.3 micrograms per liter for vulnerable populations and children under the age of 6. It is higher at 1.6 micrograms per liter for children and adults over the age of 6.

Staff writer Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (315) 282-2237 or gwendolyn.craig@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.

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