Researchers taking aim at blue-green algae

Researchers taking aim at blue-green algae at Honeoye Lake. Team researching as part of a three year grant.

Honeoye, NY - It's become an annual annoyance in many area lakes, and experts believe it's spreading. Harmful algae blooms, commonly known as blue-green algae, are popping up across the state, including a number of the Finger Lakes.

According to the DEC, 60 waterways in the state are currently having at least some issues with the algae. Honeoye Lake is one of them, and that's where Nelson Hairston and his team of researchers are trying to learn more about the nuisance.

"We can't manage the lake until we know where the nutrients are coming from," said Hairston.

Hairston is the chair of Cornell University's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He's partnered with Finger Lakes Community College and the Honeoye Lake Watershed Task Force as part of a three-year grant to learn more about blue-green algae.

Honeoye Lake has been known to have large algae blooms, but Hairston said the lake is also a bit of an anomaly when it comes to what impacts the water.

"There's hardly any agriculture in the watershed. All the homes on the lake are tied to a common sewer system, and the sewer system leads those nutrients away from the lake," said Hairston.

Hairston believes the algae is being fueled by nutrients at the bottom of the lake. Through taking weekly samples and monitoring weather conditions, he believes the weather is part of the reason the algae is becoming more common.

"The lake doesn't stay frozen nearly as long in the spring as it used to, so the water temperatures start to warm sooner," said Hairston.

That helps the nutrients rise to surface and can create algae. The issue now is figuring out what can be done about it.

Hairston hopes any results can act as a model for other waterways in the state and region.

Those who live along the lake just hope to find an answer.

"This is the only way that we're going to make a difference in the short to medium term, is to understand where this is coming from," said Terry Gronwall of the Honeoye Lake Watershed Task Force.

The DEC urges people to contact them if they see blue-green algae. There is also tips on what to do if you come into contact with the algae on their website.

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