MOREAU — The Moreau Lake State Park beach is expected to reopen Friday morning pending good weather, after a harmful algal bloom closed it earlier this week.
Harmful algal blooms, also known as cyanobacteria, can be toxic. The most common toxin found in New York state's blooms is called microcystin, a kind of liver toxin. Exposure can cause health problems like nausea, headache, diarrhea and skin rash.
The state Department of Health said a water sample collected in the bathing area Thursday morning was tested at the state's Wadsworth Laboratory in Albany. The microcystin levels came back that afternoon below the beach closure level of 4 micrograms per liter. The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation said it hoped to open the beach Friday morning if the weather was good.
While park-goers might be able to enjoy the water Friday, the "Beach Closed: Harmful Algal Bloom" signed planted in the freshly raked sand on Thursday appeared to dampen their moods.
"It's like somebody dropped a bomb and we were lucky to get away," said Denise Crisci, referencing the quiet and emptiness of one of the area's hot-spot summer getaways, prior to the news that the beach would reopen.
The Glenville resident had arrived Wednesday to camp for a couple weeks. Her family comes to the park every year, and she was expecting two of her grandsons this weekend. The family holds an annual water fight in the lake.
"This is a thing that we do every year, so I'm hoping it's open, because this is like a surreal feeling, because you never don't hear kids," she said, looking out at the empty water.
About six or seven lifeguards sat on a picnic table nearby. They told a Post-Star reporter that they worked for the state and could not answer any questions, but that they were there to keep people from going into the water.
State Department of Environmental Conservation records dating back to 2012 show that Moreau Lake has not had a harmful algal bloom. The DEC said it takes immediate action whenever a new bloom is identified, in both new and recurring locations. DOH and DEC also pointed out Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Harmful Algal Bloom Initiative, which is providing about $65 million in funding to study the blooms and come up with action plans to combat them on 12 lakes.
Moreau Lake is not one of those lakes, but Lake George and Lake Champlain are part of the study. Ultimately, however, the state hopes to take what it has learned from the initiative to other lakes suffering from harmful algal blooms.
Cyanobacteria are naturally present in lakes and streams, according to DOH. They can become abundant and visible on the water, under conditions that most sunbathers also enjoy: warm, sunny and calm days. A harmful algal bloom has often been described as blue-green algae, but DOH said they may also be green, yellow, white, brown, purple or red. They often crop up in the late summer and early fall.
Officials usually can't tell if a bloom is toxic or not by sight, so the state's recommendation is to avoid swimming, boating or otherwise recreating in water where there might be one.
The DEC updates a list of water bodies with harmful algal blooms every Friday. That, along with information on how to report a bloom, is available at dec.ny.gov/chemical/83310.html.
The beach was also closed earlier this summer because of a parasite found in freshwater that can cause itching. Signs remain posted at the park's kiosk warning of "swimmer's itch," but the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation said Thursday that it has had no new reports of the parasite since June.