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Buffers, constructed wetlands are possible solutions to harmful algal blooms

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
A harmful algae bloom summit at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

Experts on harmful algal blooms in bodies of water across upstate are developing plans and informing the public on solutions to the problem. The blooms can negatively affect drinking water quality and recreational use of lakes. A series of summits, including one recently in Syracuse, are part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s initiative to reduce the blooms.

Dr. Jacqueline Lendrum is the director of Water Assessment Management for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. She said every water body is different and that makes it difficult to determine what causes harmful algal blooms in a particular lake.

“There are water bodies that, if you follow the formula, should have a bloom, but they don’t," Lendrum said. "There are other water bodies that follow the formula, shouldn’t have a bloom, but they do. That’s what we’re trying to figure out.”

There are some similar qualities. Elevated nutrient levels are typically seen in lakes that have frequent blooms. For Cayuga, Owasco and Skaneateles lakes, Lendrum said some solutions include buffers and constructed wetlands that will keep nutrients soaked into the landscape during heavy rain.

“Grass and trees and bushes along streams are healthy streams," Lendrum said. "Streams that are devoid of any vegetation are bad for water quality, bad for fish habitat, bad for temperature. The more that we can make those stream corridors look like the natural corridors, where trees and bushes and shrubs would grow up, then that’s better.”

Action plans will be released in May and implemented in the spring. The next summit will be held in the North Country later this month.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.