Harmful Algae Blooms In Chautauqua Lake

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JAMESTOWN, NY (WNY News Now) – With temperatures heating up, going to Chautauqua Lake for a quick dip to cool down and enjoy the waves will sound quite appealing. However, not everyone is aware of the dangers lurking within the water. 

There is a toxic organism known commonly as blue-green algae that can pose hazardous threats to humans and animals alike. Luckily, Jessica Wuerstley, the director of Environmental Health in our county, has tips on how to identify these algae blooms and keep yourself safe.

“Blue-Green Algae is the common name of a species that science recognizes as cyanobacteria. It’s an organism that lives in the lake, it’s naturally here, it’s a native species, it has not been an invasive species, it’s not an introduced species. It’s something that has been here quite honestly a lot longer than we’ve been here,” said Weurstley.

The blooms are not just dangerous, but it is impossible to tell if they’re currently emitting toxins.

“From a public health standpoint, our concern for these blooms is their potential to create toxins, and the problem is that when the blooms exist, if they are creating toxins there’s not a visual cue for us to recognize if something is creating toxins or not,” explained Weurstley.

Even though the name alludes to the blooms’ color, they’re not always blue-green.

“The coloration can really be very different. It can be that sort of iridescent blue green kind of spilled paint on water, it can also just be a thick green throughout the entire water column depending on the health of the particular bloom. As they start to die sometimes they can have white chunks in them,” Weurstley said.

The best thing to do if you spot an algae bloom is to avoid it.

“We treat all blooms as they have the potential to create toxins and may be creating toxins. We encourage people to stay out of the water if there is blooms, to avoid areas if there are blooms, and also to make sure you’re keeping your pets out of the water if there are blooms,” said Weurstley. 

If you notice a suspicious bloom, the health department encourages you to take a picture and submit a report to the website harmfulalgae@health.ny.gov. and to contact your health care provider if you are experiencing symptoms that might be related to the blue-green algae. 


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