In previous years, there has been a lot of attention around harmful algal blooms (HABs) in local water bodies, specifically Owasco Lake. In the past we have referred to these blooms as blue green algal blooms even though they can be various colors. This year we will be using the term HABs when discussing algal blooms on Owasco Lake and other Cayuga County water bodies.
As the summer months are approaching, the Cayuga County Health Department would like to remind the public that we can all take steps to prepare ourselves for the presence of HABs on Cayuga County water bodies and the potential health effects to humans and pets if exposed.
There are a few things you can do before and while you are recreating on local lakes.
Bodies of water that are discolored with a paint-like or filmy appearance or floating scum should always be avoided as they are potentially harmful. Images of these types of blooms as well as non-harmful blooms can be viewed at http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/81962.html.
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Always stay away from blooms in lakes or streams. Never swim, fish, boat, wade or eat fish caught in areas with blooms. Bloom or no bloom, never drink, prepare food, cook, or make ice with a private water supply drawn directly from a lake that is untreated or improperly treated. During a bloom, private water supplies drawn directly from the lake should not be used for showering, bathing, or washing dishes even if treatment is provided. Public water supplies that draw water from surface water are treated, disinfected and monitored. The public would be notified by the Cayuga County Health Department if public water supplies are impacted by HABs.
If you think that a bloom may be harmful and is present on Owasco Lake, the Cayuga County Health Department asks that you report it to the Owasco Lake Watershed Inspection Program at (315) 427-5188 or (315) 237-2066. If the bloom is present on another water body in Cayuga County, please report it to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) at HABsinfo@dec.ny.gov. Other lakes do not have their own watershed inspectors which is why the public should contact NYSDEC.
If you feel that you or your pets are experiencing symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, irritation of the skin, eyes, or respiratory system due to exposure to a harmful bloom please contact your health care provider or veterinarian.
More information regarding harmful algae blooms can be found at www.cayugacounty.us/health. Any questions or to report any symptoms you think may be related to exposure to harmful algal blooms contact the Cayuga County Health Department at (315) 253-1560.