What is a harmful algae bloom, anyway?

You may have seen quite a few notifications about harmful algae blooms lately and wondered just what they are, why they happen, and what you should do if you think you’ve seen one.

What’s a harmful algae bloom and why do they happen?

From DEC: “Blooms of algal species that can produce toxins are referred to as harmful algal blooms (HABs). HABs usually occur in nutrient-rich waters, particularly during hot, calm weather.” Often, HABs are at the whims of the weather – when it’s very warm outside and hasn’t rained much, still bodies of water like lakes and ponds can experience algae blooms. The blooms may look like someone’s spilled green paint on the surface of the water.

These blooms are dangerous to swimmers, boaters, and pets, and can cause symptoms like vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and skin and throat irritation. You should never drink water from a source that’s suspected to contain harmful algae. If you have been in contact with a HAB, you should contact your healthcare provider.

What should I do if I think I’ve seen one?

Take a closeup photo, fill out this form, and send it to the DEC at HABsInfo@dec.ny.gov. If you think you’re experiencing symptoms after contact with a suspected algal bloom, contact the Health Department at harmfulalgae@health.ny.gov.

How can I find out where blooms have been spotted?

DEC maintains a website with information here. You can see past blooms here.

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