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Algae workshop

An example of a floating island, which is used to control algal blooms in Lake Mitchell in Westerchester County.

Floating islands are taking off as the latest idea to fight harmful algal blooms.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it is working with two Native American nations on studying the use of these floating platforms of vegetation along Lake Havasu and the Colorado River.

The idea is the plants capture excess nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorous, eating them up before the algae. 

New York is testing out this idea, too.

Presenters working on Lake Mitchell, a 4-acre lake in Westchester County, showed attendees of the North Country Climate Reality's climate change conference in October in Hague how to make floating islands. The islands have significantly reduced the number of algae blooms on Lake Mitchell, and have attracted more wildlife to the park. 

The EPA said early monitoring in Colorado has also shown promising results. Nutrient levels have been reduced, and underwater photos show the plants on the islands have larger root systems, and the water appears less green.

"EPA scientists plan to build on the promising results of the study," the federal agency said in a press release on Dec. 3. "Future steps will include efforts to investigate the impact of increased floating island coverage and placement over the water surface, plant selection, and whether floating islands impact the natural flow of water through a landscape. The study provides one possible approach to address the threat of harmful algal blooms."

Harmful algal blooms, also known as cynobacteria, have impacted water bodies across New York, including Moreau Lake, Saratoga Lake and Cossayuna Lake, to name a few locally. Some of these blooms can have toxins, which are detrimental to human health and pets.

— Gwendolyn Craig

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Reporter Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (518) 742-3238 or gcraig@poststar.com. Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1

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