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New tech coming to track harmful algae blooms on Seneca, Owasco Lakes

USGS Algae monitoring.jpg
Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey want to better understand why harmful blooms of algae are growing in some of the Finger Lakes - and work to stop them from spreading. (WHAM photo)

Geneva, N.Y. (WHAM) - Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey want to better understand why harmful blooms of algae are growing in some of the Finger Lakes - and work to stop them from spreading.

On Wednesday, some of those scientists were at Seneca Lake State Park in Geneva to talk about that process and the new technology they plan to use to track the algae.

Blue-green algae blooms have been showing up more often in the last few years in several of the Finger Lakes, including Owasco, Seneca, and Skaneateles Lakes. Those blooms pose a health hazard to humans, pets, animals in the wild and organisms in the water itself. Some of the lakes that supply the greater Rochester area with drinking water have seen those blooms in the past.

The new technology being installed aims to detect changes in water quality conditions that could point to the development of those algae blooms. The water quality sensors are testing for nutrients, algae composition, temperature, oxygen, and pH. They were placed at various depths to help collect better data.

"All of the information is being collected in near-real time," said Jennifer Graham, a research hydrologist with the USGS. "As the instruments are collecting information, it is being transmitted onto the web. So anybody can go look and view at any time what's going on with water quality and the information that's coming in on these platforms."

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The USGS is working with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to "aggressively combat" harmful algae blooms, according to the USGS. New York state has put forward a $65 million initiative to that end.

The sensors dropped into Seneca Lake in May will be left in the water until October. All of the real-time data will be displayed on the USGS website for New York here.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation tracks the number of harmful algae blooms reported at any given time in New York; those statistics are tracked and posted online here. The blooms usually occur in nutrient-rich waters, particularly during hot, calm weather, according to the NYS DEC.

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