Blue-green algae samples

The Owasco Lake Watershed Inspection Program collects samples in 2016 of blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria.

Provided by Tim Schneider, Owasco Lake Watershed Inspection Program

Drinking water for those served by Skaneateles Lake continues to be free of harmful algal bloom toxins, though low levels were still detected inside the city of Syracuse Gatehouse in the village of Skaneateles.

The Onondaga County Health Department and City of Syracuse Department of Water issued a statement Friday night that levels coming into the village Thursday were 0.19 micrograms per liter, under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's health advisory guideline for vulnerable populations. Due to chlorination, however, both government entities said the drinking water has shown no toxins and is safe to drink. Testing will continue daily.

Skaneateles Lake has had detectable levels of toxins in the water since Monday. Skaneateles Schools have reopened their drinking water fountains, which Superintendent Ken Slentz had shut off on Sept. 20 following the toxin reports. Joint statements issued by county, state and water officials originally said the village of Skaneateles's water detected toxins. That statement was later revised for following test results to say toxins were detected prior to chlorination. Thus, officials have said, no toxins are detected at the village's taps.

"What has become apparent is the poor communication processes involved with this issue," he wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday. "These processes have resulted in a good deal of confusion in our community and led to our decision to utilize bottled water until such time as we could confidently state that our water is safe. Going forward, we will continue to work with the village, County Department of Health, and the State Department of Health to ensure consistent, fact-based information is being shared in timely and consistent fashion."

Skaneateles is not the only New York water body suffering from blooms. The state Department of Environmental Conservation reported Friday that 16 water bodies were added to its HABs notification page for a total of 65. Owasco, Cayuga and Skaneateles lakes continue to be listed as with confirmed blooms.

Meanwhile high levels of toxins were detected in a bloom reported on Monday in Owasco Lake. The Owasco Lake Watershed Inspection Program updated its website Friday with the latest test results showing a toxic bloom just north of Lindenwood Cove.

The bloom had about 16 times the state Department of Environmental Conservation's threshold of microcystin at 318.7 micrograms per liter. It also had nearly 50 times the DEC's threshold for chlorophyll a, another indicator to confirm an algae bloom.

Watershed Specialist Drew Snell said Friday that shoreline blooms were still widespread from south to north. He said the southwest corner and the east side of the lake are particularly showing signs of continued algae events.

The Cayuga County Health Department took water samples from the city of Auburn and town of Owasco's water treatment plants Friday morning. Those results were also not immediately available Friday night, though the past few results have shown no detectable levels of toxins in the drinking water. 

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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County Government Reporter