As temperatures rise and harmful algal bloom season moves closer, the state Tuesday launched a new notification and reporting system for the potentially toxic problem that's plagued Owasco, Cayuga, Skaneateles and other lakes throughout New York.
The new NYHABS system features an interactive map showing specifically where a HAB is reported, compared to the general area listed weekly by the previous system, as well as an updated reporting form available to the public, according to a joint release from the state departments of Environmental Conservation and Health.
The new map is updated daily with reports submitted by volunteers with the DEC's Lake Classification and Inventory or Citizen Statewide Lake Assessment programs, members of partner HAB monitoring public, and members of the general public.
Each instance of a HAB on the map is accompanied by multiple data points including when it was reported, whether it's been confirmed or not, its extent, who submitted the report, and even photographs submitted with the report.
“The state’s new notification system allows New Yorkers to be more informed than ever before about the location of HABs so they can better protect themselves, their families, and their pets. Working closely with our state and local partners, and with support from Governor Cuomo’s $65 million HABs Initiative, DEC is aggressively combating HABs and working to reduce or eliminate these blooms from our waters," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in the release.
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In addition to the map, the other main feature of the new system is an updated form for reporting HABs.
The form asks users to use a Google Maps-like feature to pinpoint specifically where they see a possible HAB, and also asks questions about public access, where in a lake a bloom is, and to compare it to pictures of confirmed HABs and other lake events.
Even with the updated system, the DEC warns residents to err on the side of caution if they see what might be a HAB through the slogan of "Know it, avoid it, report it."
Compared to other forms of harmless algae, HABs tend to 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," according to the DEC.
The new system, as well as links to more information on HABs, can be found at dec.ny.gov/chemical/83310.html.