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Lake George Association seeks algae watchers

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Lake George algae

This dense collection of filamentous algae spotted on Lake George this summer could be a sign of excess nutrient loading from stormwater runoff and/or failing septic systems. Participants in the LGA’s new AlgaeWatch program are being asked to monitor for this type of growth and alert the LGA when found. Please note: the algae shown in this photo is not cyanobacteria, the type of algae that leads to harmful algal blooms.

LAKE GEORGE — The Lake George Association is seeking volunteers to monitor their favorite areas of the lake for excessive algae growth and, especially, harmful algal blooms, or HABs.

The LGA on Friday announced the launch of a new citizen, science program called AlgaeWatch to help monitor a new problem in Lake George.

The first sighting of HABs on Lake George was in 2020, according to Brea Arvidson, LGA manager of water quality research.

“It’s definitely a growing issue. We had our first algae bloom in November of 2020 and we’ve had four blooms overall since then,” Arvidson told The Post-Star. “So far, no blooms have been confirmed in 2022.”

A HAB is a dense concentration of cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, that presents itself as a green film on the surface of the water and can quickly spread, preventing sunlight from reaching the water and consuming the oxygen that other organisms need to survive. In a worst-case scenario, a HAB can become toxic to humans and animals.

None of the Lake George blooms to date have been toxic or caused the major environmental and economic damage that has occurred in other parts of the state and country.

AlgaeWatch has 25 volunteers signed up so far that will monitor shoreline or near-shore areas around their home or business, or areas they otherwise frequent and document the growth of various types of algae to report back to the LGA.

If a HAB is discovered, volunteers will also report their findings to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The information gathered will help the LGA science and technical team, its partners at The Jefferson Project environmental monitoring program and DEC identify problem areas and help guide implementation of appropriate mitigation measures.

Volunteers also receive email alerts from the LGA any time water and weather conditions are especially conducive to HAB formation, as well as updates on any ongoing blooms. HABs are most apt to occur when water and wind conditions are calm, and the weather is warmer than usual, according to the association.

“HABs are our canary in the coal mine,” said Arvidson in a news release. “When a HAB occurs, or any case of excessive algae growth for that matter, the lake is telling us it needs help. By identifying these occurrences as early as possible, we can deploy the right resources to identify the cause and begin to develop science-based solutions.”

Arvidson said the excessive algae growth is suspected to come from nutrient loading as a result of stormwater runoff and failing septic systems, which pose a serious and growing threat to Lake George water quality.

“It takes a community of people to properly monitor a lake the size of Lake George and that’s exactly what we’re asking for. We need anyone who lives, works or regularly spends time on or around the lake to be an AlgaeWatcher and play a role in protecting water quality today and for the future,” Arvidson said.

Interested volunteers can sign up for the program at lakegeorgeassociation.org/algaewatch and also watch a new LGA educational video on the dangers posed by HABs and what can be done to prevent them.

Jana DeCamilla is a staff writer who covers Moreau, Queensbury, and Lake George. She can be reached at 518-742-3272 or jdecamilla@poststar.com.

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