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Algal blooms and mosquitoes remain active thanks to warm fall weather

Nancy Mueller
NYS Federation of Lake Associations, Inc.
Blue-green algae in Skaneateles Lake

This year’s mild fall is keeping the Onondaga County Health Department busy, as algal blooms in Skaneateles Lake and mosquito-borne illnesses are still being monitored at a time they are usually a fading summer memory.

By the time Columbus Day weekend rolls around, central New York is generally entrenched in fall weather. But this year’s decidedly summery feel shows no sign of going away.

“The warm weather certainly made it so there’s a couple of issues hanging on, that are usually gone by now,” said Onondaga County Environmental Health Director Lisa Letteney.

Letteney says the county continues to monitor an algal bloom in Skaneateles Lake that popped up in mid-September. The blooms, which thrive on hot, dry weather, have released a dangerous toxin that’s infiltrated the pipes that carry drinking water to the city of Syracuse. But Letteney says daily tests show drinking water is still safe.

“We are still getting low levels in the raw intake water,” she said. “But any of the water that’s reaching the customer, we haven’t found any of it. It’s been all non-detect.”

Letteney says the blooms will go away when cooler temperatures prevail, but there’s not much the county can do to speed up the process.

“We just have to wait until it naturally goes away. There’s really nothing that we can do to make it any faster,” she said. “This year has just been a perfect weather pattern for this to hang around, and it’s been like this in many other lakes in New York State too.”

It’s the same story with mosquitoes. The warm fall means mosquitoes are still around, and with them come the risk of mosquito-borne illness. The county just announced its second case of West Nile Virus in a human this fall, a disease passed along from infected mosquitos. That means the usual late summer warnings to avoid the pesky insects continue.

“The numbers are low. But it doesn’t matter, really. Anyone should be protecting themselves if they are out and mosquitos are active,” said Letteney.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.