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New State Proposal Targets Toxic Algal Blooms On Cayuga Lake

Blue Green Algae Bloom on Lake Erie
Blue Green Algae Bloom on Lake Erie

One of Governor Cuomo’s State of the State proposals would protect Cayuga Lake from toxic algal blooms.

Governor Cuomo’s proposal targets the 12 lakes that have the biggest algal bloom problems in the state. He said, "In the beautiful lakes of upstate New York we now have toxic algal that is spreading it is literally endangering the drinking water. No more procrastination, Let’s resolve these issues and let’s do it this year."

It’s a $65 million plan he wants begun in February, finished in May and enacted this summer.  After years of inaction, Greg Boyer, professor of biochemistry at SUNY-College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, thinks the “aggressive timeline." Cuomo wants experts to collaborate with community members and local government leaders on the plans.

Boyer and others have studied New York’s toxic algae for decades. He says it’s not just one toxin people should worry about. The algae produce 300-400 toxins. The EPA divides them into four categories, one of which is liver toxins, like the ones found in the Cayuga Lake last September.

"The concentration of liver toxins in that bloom were 200 times higher than human health guidelines," said Boyer. "That’s a really toxic bloom level we see animal fatalities."

According to Boyer, New York already has one of the best monitoring systems in the nation. Now, the idea is to create a specific management plan for each lake.

"I hate to sound like a spokesperson for the governor but one of the things I like about his proposal is that they recognize that no there is not a one size fits all solution for every single lake in NY state. We’re gonna have to take twelve lakes and design management plans for those twelve lakes.

After the plans are created, they’ll be used for other lakes in New York. But, Boyer said, the problem took a long time to develop and will take time to solve.