The Chautauqua County Health Department is urging residents and visitors to educate themselves about Harmful Algal Blooms as localized blooms have started to be observed in Chautauqua and Findley Lakes. In New York, harmful algal blooms, or HABs, occur most frequently in the mid to late summer months but can occur at any time of the year. Small bloom conditions can change rapidly due to changes in weather and lake currents. Larger blooms will likely persist throughout the summer once they become established.
Blue-green algae are naturally present in lakes. Nutrient rich runoff from surrounding land, warm water temperature, and sunshine encourages blue-green algae growth. Be alert and watchful for blooms which may resemble “pea soup” or have a paint-like appearance with strong colors including blue-green, green, yellow, white, brown, purple, or red. Blooms are more likely in nearshore areas than open water areas.
HABs present a public health risk because they can release toxins which may be harmful to human and animal health. People and pets can be exposed to toxins by contact with HABs during water recreation activities, through surface water use around the house, such as watering gardens, and through improperly treated drinking water. Key municipal water treatment facilities in Chautauqua County test for toxins in their water when blooms occur near their intakes.
If people or pets are accidentally exposed to a bloom, use clean water to rinse off as soon as possible. Consider medical attention if people or pets have symptoms including diarrhea, nausea or vomiting, skin irritation, and allergic reactions or breathing difficulties after exposure to surface waters with HABs.
The Chautauqua County Health Department monitors permitted bathing beaches for HABs and the indicator bacteria E. coli. To best protect the public from possible illness, beaches are closed when the water exceeds bacteria safety standards and/or HABs are identified. Updates are planned throughout the summer to alert residents of changes in the status of HABs in the County.