Swim beaches close before Fourth of July on Honeoye and Keuka lakes

The steamy Fourth of July arrived with two area swim beaches shuttered due to blue-green algae. Sandy Bottom on Honeoye Lake and Red Jacket Park on Keuka Lake were both closed to swimming until further notice. Canandaigua Lake Watershed Program Manager Kevin Olvany said Monday Canandaigua Lake was so far clear of harmful algae. “We are holding strong,” said Olvany. He routinely inspects the lake along with other professionals and volunteers.


“We have eyes out there,” he said.


Blue-green algal blooms can turn the water green and form thick scum that looks like pea soup. Exposure can cause skin or eye irritation, or diarrhea and vomiting if ingested. People and animals should keep out of the water where blooms are present. Health officials recommend precautions: Don’t swim, wade or fish near blooms or scums; keep children and pets away, don’t drink the water and if exposed, rinse off thoroughly with clean water.


Toxic algae is a growing problem on waterways worldwide. That is due to a mix of factors including climate change that is causing more severe storms and a gradual warming of lakes, along with pollutants. The number of waterbodies with harmful algae blooms throughout New York state jumped nearly 600 percent over the past six years, from 58 in 2012 to 394 in 2018. Rebecca Gorney, research scientist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s lake monitoring and assessment, said at a forum last fall in Canandaigua that statewide there are 50 to 70 new water bodies added annually to the list of those with harmful algal blooms, or HABs. Gorney and the other panelists talked about increased monitoring and efforts to help prevent blooms, as well as more quickly and accurately pinpointing HABs and protecting drinking water.


Anthony Prestigiacomo, DEC research scientist with the Finger Lakes Watershed Hub, talked about research into why lakes with low phosphorus levels, such as Canandaigua, are plagued by HABs. Too much phosphorus fuels HABs. But as with other water bodies, Canandaigua Lake is affected by climate change that has brought more intense rainstorms and an uptick in water temperature hospitable to HABs. Prestigiacomo mentioned, too, the potential impact from mussels in the lake and how the increase in quagga mussels may be a factor.


The DEC lists waterbodies statewide with HABs and recently added a map for pinpointing locations. Last year, HABs notices began Aug. 24 for Canandaigua Lake and ran for eight weeks. Honeoye Lake made the list for 16 weeks beginning June 8. Notices began Aug. 17 for Keuka Lake and continued for six weeks.


Olvany said Canandaigua Lake has never experienced a blue-green algae bloom in July. Typically conditions progress throughout the season, dominating by the end of the summer. He mentioned that people are now seeing duckweed on the lake, which is harmless and not to be confused with blue-green algae. Duckweed is a flowering plant that floats on or just beneath the surface of the water.


If you see something suspicious on the lake Olvany said to send in a photo and you can also email or call with questions or concerns.


To report suspicious blooms on Canandaigua Lake, send photos along with location and description of the conditions you are seeing to: HABs@canandaigualakeassoc.org. Or call 585 396-3630.