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Algae survey shows hot spots in Lake George
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Algae survey shows hot spots in Lake George

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BOLTON — Preliminary results of a study on Lake George show that Mohican Point, south of Bolton, experienced more algae production than anywhere else in the lake. It's not clear what the source of the algae growth is, but the study is the first step in helping researchers find out.

The algae collection was a part of The Jefferson Project, a water-quality monitoring and mapping effort carried out by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, The Fund for Lake George and IBM. 

Rick Relyea, director of the project, updated the Lake George Park Commission on Tuesday about the study's results at the commission's meeting in Bolton Town Hall.

Many lakeshore property owners have noticed more and more green slime growing on their docks, their water intake pipes and on shoreline rocks. The algae is not the same as a harmful algal bloom, which is a floating photosynthetic bacteria that produces toxins and tends to look like green and blue spilled paint. 

Still, excess algae growth could indicate a nutrient problem in Lake George.

The study took place in July and August. Lake residents who agreed to participate were given a tile to hang in the water off the end of their docks. A number of things grew or collected on the tile over the course of a month, including sediment, fungi, bacteria and a kind of algae called periphyton.

Brian Mattes, research specialist with the project, said in a phone call Tuesday that 55 tiles were distributed around the lake, and tiles that came back with a darker or stronger color had more algae and other things growing on them.

Relyea told commissioners Tuesday that initial results show Mohican Point tiles had 10 times more algae than the lakewide average. In August, the tiles had 30 times more algae than the lakewide average.

Catherine LaBombard, a park commissioner, asked Relyea whether septic systems were failing in the Mohican Point area, and if there was a way to determine what was causing the algae.

"Where you see a hot spot is not necessarily the source," Relyea said.

The lake water circulates, Relyea said, so it's not clear where the nutrient source is. Nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen could be coming from septic systems or other sources at Mohican Point, or they could be coming from elsewhere and settling in the area. 

"It could be all sorts of things," Relyea said. "This is the first step."

Other areas that saw higher amounts of algae in July included Ticonderoga, Hulett's Landing and the western coast of the southern basin, according to The Jefferson Project's website. 

In August, Hague also saw more algae on its tiles, as did the western coast of the southern basin.

Relyea said no tiles had been put out in the area of Lake George called "the Narrows," a more rural region that connects the north and south basins. Relyea said there are fewer landowners in that area, and none participated.

LaBombard said she was concerned that the nutrients generating the algae could lead to a harmful algal bloom on Lake George. Harmful algal blooms, or cyanobacteria, are naturally occurring in all water bodies, but to grow, they need nutrients to eat.

The hot spots around Mohican Point had LaBombard concerned a toxic bloom could show up.

"To me, it's just a matter of time," she said.

"Any lake should be worried about that," Relyea said. 

To view the preliminary results of the algae survey, go to jeffersonproject.rpi.edu/survey

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

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