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Harmful Algal Blooms Action Plan Released For Lake George

Lake George, NY
Lucas Willard

New York state officials have released a Harmful Algal Blooms action plan for Lake George.

In 2017, more than 100 beaches across New York were closed due to Harmful Algal Blooms.

HAB’s happen when colonies of algae grow out of control, in many cases spurred on by excess nutrients in waterways.

Though HABs have not been seen on Lake George, conservation organizations and local leaders are pleased to see New York State issue an action plan for the Adirondack lake.

Walt Lender is Executive Director of the Lake George Association.

“There used to be maybe one or two a year, now we’re seeing the frequencies increasing – 10 or 15 harmful algae blooms, they’re closing beaches in Lake Champlain constantly with this. So, luckily we’ve never experienced that here, but we don’t want that to start happening here in Lake George so we’re trying to prevent the nutrients from getting into the lake,” said Lender.

Earlier this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a $65 million program to combat HABs. The state identified 12 waterbodies of concern to represent a wide range of conditions and vulnerabilities. Regional summits were held, and now action plans have been released.

Lake George was chosen because of its popularity and its local infrastructure.

Lender says the LGA has been educating the public on the threat of HABs.

“We talk about nutrient loading, we talk about storm water runoff, we talk about septic systems and upgrading septic systems in much of our outreach material,” said Lender.

The action plan includes several steps to address water quality, including: upgrading municipal wastewater collection systems and reducing inflow; establishing an inspection and maintenance program for near-shore septic systems and extending sanitary sewage infrastructure.  In addition, the plan calls for implementing a demonstration project of what’s called a woodchip bioreactor. The bioreactor is essentially underground trenches filled with wood chips and colonized with organisms from the soil. The organisms consume nitrates from outflow that passes through the bioreactor, preventing the nutrients from entering a waterbody.  

Eric Siy, Executive Director of the FUND for Lake George, says it’s been science and testing performed by the FUND and Lake George Waterkeeper that has led to action at the state level.

“We are really setting the pace for showing how applied science can deliver effective solutions,” said Siy.

The FUND for Lake George earlier this month hosted a delegation from the Skaneateles Lake Association to discuss common threats between the two “sister lakes” including HABs.  Both lakes serve as a source of drinking water, recreation, and other uses. They were both selected for the statewide HAB initiative.

Siy said research conducted by the FUND connected the Lake George Sewage Treatment Plant to excessive nutrients entering the lake through West Brook. 

“That triggered a whole new level of attention and action by the state to commit to upgrading that plant. The same process is underway at the Town of Bolton and upgrades to their plant, where not only did we definitely document the connection, we provided recommendations and grant funding, a $50,000 grant for the purposes of upgrading the Bolton wastewater treatment plant,” said Siy.

The environmental organizations, along with municipal and business leaders, join together in the SAVE Lake George Partnership.

Town of Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson credits the partnership with protecting the lake through education and advocating at the state level. 

“And it provides us with a tremendously powerful cross-section. If you need politicians, we got politicians. We send the mayor down to Albany, people listen to him. He’s been around 40 years. If you need some inside conservation things, we have the LGA and the FUND for Lake George,” said Dickinson.

Advocates at Lake George led to the creation of a mandatory boat inspection program at boat launches to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. Efforts to limit the amount of salt entering the lake have also accelerated in recent years.

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