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Heat, early rain contributing to ripe conditions for harmful algal blooms

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
An example of a harmful algal bloom on Skaneateles Lake.

Several bodies of water in central New York have reported harmful algal blooms in recent weeks. With temperatures heating up after a wet spring, conditions are ripe for the blooms. 

Harmful algal blooms have been widely reported on Cayuga Lake. They have also appeared on Lake Neatahwanta in Oswego County. The Cazenovia and Jamesville beaches closed last week due to the blooms. Lisa Letteney, director of environmental health for the Onondaga County Health Department, said the blooms discovered in the Jamesville Reservoir were not unexpected.

“We’ve had a lot of rain early in the spring, possibly a lot of runoff into these water bodies, and then it’s gotten very hot, and it’s sustained being hot for several weeks now," Letteney said. "Those are perfect conditions.”

Health officials are warning the public to stay away from the blooms and report them to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Exposure to the blooms can make people sick and trigger an allergic response. 

So far, no blooms have been detected on Skaneateles Lake, which is the drinking water source for more than 200,000 residents, including the city of Syracuse.

The county health department is also monitoring and testing for mosquitoes. Despite concerns from the public, Letteney said it’s about an average year for the mosquito population. So far, none have tested positive for the Triple E or West Nile viruses.

"It's not going to be unexpected though, for us to get some West Nile or Triple E, because generally each year, we end up getting it," Letteney said.

The mosquito population usually peaks in July.

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.