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Great Lakes Research Consortium awards funding to address harmful algal blooms, other issues

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Greg Boyer at SUNY ESF.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is expected to soon release its management plans to combat harmful algal blooms in 12 lakes, some in central and northern New York. The Great Lakes Research Consortium is also commissioning five projects to address the outbreaks and other environmental issues.

Greg Boyer is a SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry professor and the director of the consortium.

"One of the things DEC specifically asked for the Great Lakes Research Consortium to do this year is they said let's start thinking less about describing what's there and more about how we're actually going to fix the problem," Boyer said.

He said one of those projects includes testing high energy electron beams to protect from algal toxins and pharmaceuticals that could be in the water.

“There’s this whole category of contaminants of emerging concern that are part of our normal, everyday life, but were never meant to be in our normal everyday ecosystem,” Boyer said.

Boyer said it has led to fish that are bisexual, frogs that cannot reproduce and could be impacting humans. The high energy electron beams would be built into a water treatment facility and could burn up anything in the water.

“This is one that actually could potentially solve a whole bunch of problems," Boyer said. "It could solve the algal toxin problems. It could solve these emerging chemicals of concern problem. It could get rid of the birth control medicines that are in the water column, all simultaneously, with one treatment.”

The consortium is also studying the effects of aging septic systems, leaking nutrients into the water. Harmful algal blooms need nutrients as a source of food. And while it is difficult for researchers to predict algal blooms on individual lakes, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it could be a slightly above average algal bloom for Lake Erie this year.

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.