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Pilot Program Aims To Detect, Mitigate Harmful Algal Blooms On Skaneateles Lake

habs neil murphy.jpg
Scott Willis
SUNY ESF President Emeritus Neil Murphy takes questions at the Woodland Reservoir in Syracuse. Sen. John Mannion, right, secured $100,000 for the pilot program to detect algal blooms on Skaneateles Lake. At left is Town of Skaneateles Supervisor Janet Aaron.

The City of Syracuse and Skaneateles Lake stakeholders are preparing to try out some new technology in an effort to address harmful algal blooms that affect swimming and the water supply. Former AP Biology teacher turned Senator John Mannion secured $100,000 for a pilot project that aims to monitor and mitigate HAB hotspots.

"If an algal bloom is detected, sensors will trigger the remediation system, which includes a dock-mounted device that uses air bubbles to rapidly kill the cyanobacteria and prevent the further production of toxins."

Those toxins can be deadly to pets and occasionally humans. SUNY ESF President Emeritus Neil Murphy is also a board member of the Skaneateles Lake Association. He says they plan to gather data at places where algae blooms are known to grow.

"We would be able to move that to different locations, so there would be more opportunity to test it on the varying conditions. For example, maybe get it down to Lourdes Camp, maybe get it up to the village. Once we get the data, we'll know the strengths and weaknesses of the technology."

Murphy says there’s no universally accepted treatment system for HABs, despite their increasing prevalence and the problems and dangers they pose. He says until just a few years ago, they were unheard of on the pristine waters of Skaneateles Lake. Murphy knows the HABs are a direct result of climate change.

"Our waters are increasing in temperature. We're getting some fairly intense rainfall events, washing nutrients into the lake. And, at times, the water is also very, very still."

That's the perfect recipe for algae to form. As of now, there are no blooms reported on Skaneateles Lake. Murphy says they plan to complete the design and purchase the equipment this fall, and hope to deploy and test it next summer.