The Cayuga County Health Department on Friday said that samples of blue-algae blooms collected on Sept. 9 in three locations on Owasco Lake had elevated levels of toxins.
A report from the state Department of Environmental Conservation said that samples taken near Buck Point in the town of Fleming; near Fire Lane 25 in the town of Scipio; and near the Owasco Yacht Club in the town of Owasco were all toxic.
The report also confirmed that an algae bloom collected on Sept. 15 in an area north of Burtis Point in the town of Owasco has been identified as blue-green algae.
According to a news release from the health department, blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, are of concern as they can produce toxins that could pose a health risk to people and animals when they are exposed to them in large enough quantities. Health effects could occur when the blooms are swallowed while swimming or through contact with the skin.
Consuming water containing high levels of blue-green algae has been associated with effects on the liver and on the nervous system in laboratory animals, pets, livestock, and people. Direct contact or breathing airborne droplets containing high levels of blue-green algal toxins during swimming or showering can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose and throat and inflammation in the respiratory tract. Anyone experiencing symptoms from a potential blue-green algae exposure should contact a doctor.
As a reminder, the Cayuga County Health Department encourages people to: Know It, Avoid It and Report It.
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Surface water that is 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 dec.ny.gov/chemical/81962.html.
Always stay away from blooms in surface waters. 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 untreated or improperly treated individual surface water supplies.
During a bloom, individual surface water supplies 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 if public water supplies are impacted by algal blooms.
Blooms suspected of being harmful should be reported to HABsinfo@dec.ny.gov or email@example.com. Blooms on Owasco Lake should be reported to the Owasco Lake Watershed Inspection Program at (315) 427-5188 or (315) 237-2066. If a person or animal experienced symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, irritation of the skin, eyes, or respiratory system due to exposure to a harmful bloom should contact a health care provider or veterinarian.
Anyone with questions may call the Environmental Health Division of the Cayuga County Health Department at (315) 253-1560 or log onto the department's website, cayugacounty.us/environmental.