Lake, town officials hope to get clean bill of health for Canandaigua Lake before beaches close for season

CANANDAIGUA — City and town of Canandaigua and Ontario County officials may know later Friday if several public and private beaches on Canandaigua Lake will be open and safe for people to use for the weekend.

Sunny, hot, humid and stagnant weather earlier in the week made for perfect conditions for potentially toxic blue-green algae blooms, primarily toward the north end of the lake. The Canandaigua Lake Watershed Association on Wednesday reported “a substantial increase” in blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, on the lake.

Watershed Manager Kevin L. Olvany said the algal bloom Tuesday prompted the closure of Kershaw Beach, Deep Run, West Lake Road School House Beach, Onanda Park and the private beach at Canandaigua Yacht Club.

But by Thursday, with cooler temperatures and more wind to help dissipate the blooms, there was hope of having beaches reopen for one of the last weekends of the summer lake season.

Although Kershaw remained closed, Olvany said it looked “great” on Thursday morning.

“That’s how fast it comes and goes,” Town Manager Doug Finch said.

People have been taking the news of the beach closures pretty well, Finch said.

“Everybody has been great about being careful,” Finch said.

Watershed staff and trained volunteers have been out surveying stretches of the lake and shoreline to collect samples and provide reports to help assess overall lake conditions, according to the Watershed Association.

The last few years, harmful algal blooms, or HABs, occurred in September, after the beaches were closed for the season anyway. This year, the blooms formed earlier and impacted the summer season despite the best interests and efforts of scientists, educators, volunteers and lake stewards in general, Olvany said.

“It’s really disconcerting,” Olvany said, especially because many people have been working hard and making strides over the years trying to get a better handle on why this is occurring.

Although the beach at Deep Run Park in Gorham was closed Thursday, cool temperatures may have dissuaded some swimmers from entering the water anyway.

But a thick green muck along the beach — which is not blue-green algae but water meal, duckweed and perhaps some of the algae mixed in, Olvany said — surely may have.

Lorraine Tucker, who is a lifeguard at the town of Canandaigua’s Onanda Park and Ontario County’s Deep Run Park, said this has been an unfortunate end of the season for many.

Many of the would-be beach goers she’s had to tell have been good about it, she said, adding she feels badly both for residents and for visitors to the area paying good money to rent cottages.

But, time is running out.

Deep Run closes Labor Day, as does Kershaw Beach in the city of Canandaigua and the other beaches.

“I think it’s a shame, but it’s nature and there’s really nothing people can do,” Tucker said.

Canandaigua Lake is not alone, of course.

Several current or former algal blooms have been reported this year throughout the Finger Lakes as well as toward the New York City and Long Island areas, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. In fact, a pond at the Ellison Park Dog Park in Rochester was closed earlier in the week because of blue-green algae, according to Daily Messenger news partner, News 10NBC.

State Department of Health officials urge people to stay out of the water in areas where there are bloom-like conditions. It is impossible to tell whether or not a bloom is toxic by looking at it, so avoid these areas, officials cautioned.

Dogs are especially vulnerable to harmful algae blooms since they drink a lot of water when in the lake and can ingest large quantities of algae when grooming themselves.

“My hope is that the cooler temperatures and rain will just kind of kill off this algae,” Tucker said.