July 31, 2020
Dear Lake Friend,
The Lake Champlain Committee (LCC) and partners received 154 monitor reports this past week from Saturday July 25 through 1:45 p.m. Friday July 31. Good conditions were observed in Lake Champlain’s Missisquoi Bay, Main Lake North, Malletts Bay and the South Lake while blooms were reported for areas of St. Albans Bay, the Inland Sea, Main Lake Central, and Main Lake South. Mixed conditions continued in Lake Carmi this week and Lake Raponda also experienced a low alert.
You’ll find a compilation of this week’s monitoring results below along with information and photographs to help you learn more about cyanobacteria. Please read on for the following:
Hot weekend temps may trigger more blooms so please check conditions carefully as you recreate. Thanks for caring about water quality.
Have a lovely weekend,
Lori Fisher, Executive Director
Lake Champlain Committee
WHAT IS CYANOBACTERIA?
Cyanobacteria are microorganisms that naturally occur in lakes and have existed on earth for millions of years. They live in diverse environments and can be found in both fresh and salt water, in soils and on rocks. Under the right conditions in water they can form large accumulations and surface scums referred to as blooms. Some types produce toxins which release into the water when cyanobacteria die and break down. The toxins can present a potential hazard to people and pets. However, not all cyanobacteria produce toxins, and even those species that can produce toxins do not do so in all instances. You cannot tell by looking at a bloom whether or not toxins are present. Specialized tests are required to tell whether a particular bloom actually contains toxins.
Cyanobacteria thrive in water that has high amounts of nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen. They can multiply quickly to form dense populations especially during warm, still days. Shallow, nutrient-enriched areas such as Lake Champlain’s Missisquoi Bay and St. Albans Bay, are more vulnerable to blooms, but they can show up anywhere. Cyanobacteria are not visible to the naked eye individually but they can form colonies and look like tiny fuzzy balls, streaks and striations, pea soup or spilled paint. They can make the water look blue-green, dark or bright green, turquoise and can also appear as white, brown, red or purple.
While cyanobacteria are sometimes called blue-green algae, they are not a type of algae but actually photosynthetic bacteria. They derive their energy through photosynthesis.
Every week we will include pictures and guidance on how to recognize them in these emails so please read all the way through for more photos and useful information.
JULY 25-31 CYANOBACTERIA MONITORING RESULTS
The information below represents the results from the latest reporting from Saturday July 25 through 1:45 pm Friday, July 31, 2020. High alert reports are indicated by red text and low alerts are indicated by yellow text. Generally safe conditions are shown in green text. Check the cyanobacteria data tracker but be aware of changing conditions and that the list below and the information on the tracker are based on the latest monitoring reports, not current conditions. You’ll find lots of resources below to help you identify cyanobacteria. Please learn how to recognize it, assess conditions and report them so you can recreate safely.
Lake Champlain Monitoring Sites – 122 reports were received from around the lake. Blooms occurred in the following regions: Inland Sea, Main Lake Central, Main Lake South and St. Albans Bay. Further details are in the section write-ups below.
Lake Champlain Beaches – Alert conditions were reported at area beaches in Burlington, Ferrisburgh, South Burlington and St. Albans, VT. Check state and municipal websites and with local beach authorities for current conditions as there is no central reporting location for Lake Champlain beach closures. Remember that beaches may be closed for reasons other than cyanobacteria blooms. Not all municipal and state park beaches have on-site staff or regular monitoring, especially during the fall.
The following lake regions experienced good conditions:
The following lake regions experienced low alert conditions:
- Missisquoi Bay | Generally safe conditions were observed for the 1 report received
- Main Lake North | Generally safe conditions were observed for 8 of the 8 reports
- Malletts Bay | Generally safe conditions were observed for 3 of the 3 reports
- South Lake | Generally safe conditions were observed for the 1 report received
People recreating in or around this region should watch for changing conditions and report and avoid cyanobacteria.
- Inland Sea | Alert level conditions were observed for 3 of the 35 reports
- Locations and dates of low alert conditions
- Graveyard Point, North Hero, 7/25, 7/26 and 7/27 | Good conditions were observed on 7/30
The following lake regions experienced mixed alert conditions:
People recreating in or around these regions should watch for changing conditions and report and avoid cyanobacteria.
- Main Lake Central | Alert level conditions were observed for 7 of the 42 reports
- Locations and dates of high alert conditions
- Oakledge Park – Blanchard Beach, Burlington, 7/31
- Oakledge Park – South Cove, Burlington, 7/31
- Whiskey Bay, Charlotte, 7/31
- Red Rocks Park Beach, South Burlington, 7/25 | Good conditions were observed on 7/27
- Locations and dates of low alert conditions
- Between Texaco Beach and North Beach, Burlington, 7/31
- Oakledge Park – Blanchard Beach, Burlington, 7/27
- South of Shelburne Shipyard, Shelburne, 7/28
- Main Lake South | Alert level conditions were observed for 5 of the 24 reports
- Location and date of high alert conditions
- North of Barn Rock, Westport, NY, 7/30
- Locations and dates of the low alert conditions
- VT DEC Long-term Monitoring Site 9, Ferrisburgh, 7/31
- Whallon Bay, Essex, NY, 7/31
- Kingsland Bay State Park, Ferrisburgh, 7/30
- Snake Den Harbor, Westport, NY, 7/30
- St. Albans Bay | Alert level conditions were observed for 3 of the 8 reports
- Location and date of high alert conditions
- Kill Kare State Park, St. Albans, 7/31
- Locations and dates of low alert conditions
- St. Albans Boat Launch, St. Albans, 7/30
- Hathaway Point Road, St. Albans, 7/30
VT Inland Waterbodies
The following waterbodies experienced good conditions:
The following waterbodies experience low alert conditions:
- Adams Reservoir | 2 reports
- Bristol Pond (Lake Winona) | 1 report
- Caspian Lake | 1 report
- Coles Pond | 1 report
- Dewey Mills Pond | 1 report
- Half Moon Lake | 1 report
- Indian Brook Reservoir | 1 report
- Joes Pond | 3 reports
- Lake Dunmore | 1 report
- Lake Fairlee | 1 report
- Lake Iroquois | 2 reports
- Lake Memphremagog | 2 reports
- Lake Morey | 1 report
- Lake Pinneo | 1 report
- Salem Lake | 1 report
- Ticklenaked Pond | 1 report
- Waterbury Reservoir | 1 report
The following waterbodies experienced mixed alert conditions:
- Lake Raponda | Alert level conditions were observed for the 1 report received
- Low alert conditions were observed on 7/30
- Lake Carmi | Alert level conditions were observed for 3 of the 9 reports
- High alert conditions were observed on 7/29 and 7/31
People recreating in or around Lake Carmi and Lake Raponda should watch for changing conditions and report and avoid cyanobacteria.
New York Inland Lakes
Blooms have been confirmed in locations around the state. Check with beach or local health authorities for current conditions. New York uses the Lake Champlain Cyanobacteria Tracker Map housed on the VT Dept. of Health (VDH) website for reporting bloom conditions on Lake Champlain. Information for all other New York waterbodies can be found through the links below:
Once you click on the link, click on “OK” in the right hand corner of your screen to get to the map.) Click on a dot to learn the details of the site reports. Some of the reports include photos so it’s a helpful resource for recognizing cyanobacteria. The site is generally updated at least weekly. A turquoise dot encircled in black indicates cyanobacteria reports within the last two weeks. A plain turquoise dot indicates archived cyanobacteria reports from more than two weeks ago but during the 2020 season.
Vermont Drinking Water Facilities Report
For the sixth summer in a row, the VT Dept. of Health and VT Dept. of Env. Conservation are collaborating to conduct cyanotoxin analysis of raw and finished water for the 22 Lake Champlain-sourced public drinking water systems thanks to funding from the Lake Champlain Basin Program. The tests began earlier this month and will run for twelve weeks into October. There were no cyanotoxin detections this week.
CHECK OUT THE CYANOBACTERIA DATA TRACKER MAP
Once monitor reports are vetted by the Lake Champlain Committee (LCC) or our partners at the Vermont Department of Health (VDH) or Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (VT DEC) they will show up on the Cyanobacteria Tracker housed on the VDH website. Reports are added on a daily basis during the monitoring season and are accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Monitor reports are indicated by green (generally safe), yellow (low alert) and red (high alert) dots on the tracker map. You can even see pictures of bloom conditions to help you recognize cyanobacteria!
- Click on a dot and a dropdown box will show you the latest reporting results. If photos were included with the report they will be listed under “Attachments” and are accessible by clicking on them. Reports remain on the tracker for 14 days.
- You can zoom into a site and click on the dot and toggle between recent reports by using the white arrow in the top right corner. Reports remain on the tracker for 14 days.
- Click on the arrow tab at the bottom of the map to pull up the report table which lists all the reports received. You can sort it by a host of parameters by clicking on the column heading.
- Zoom to a location you are interested in and then click “Filter by map extent” in the upper left hand of the table to see all of the reports that have been reported in that map area. If you double click on one of the reports, it will zoom you to where it was and provide information in a popup box.
- The tracker shows the latest reporting results but not current conditions as they can change rapidly and not all locations are monitored. Learn how to recognize, avoid and report cyanobacteria.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU SEE OR SUSPECT A BLOOM
When collecting a water sample to photograph, take care to avoid exposure to cyanobacteria. Wear gloves, don't wade or immerse yourself in the water and wash any exposed portions of your body immediately after collecting the sample.
- Report it using LCC’s online form.
- Click here for how to assess conditions.
- Click here for guidance on taking a water sample and photographing blooms.
- Avoid contact with the water in the area of the bloom.
- If you've been in contact with a bloom, rinse and shower thoroughly as soon as possible.
- Keep people (especially children) and pets out of the water.
- Do not drink, prepare food, cook or make ice or brush your teeth with untreated lake water regardless of whether or not there is a bloom.
- If you suspect a bloom near your private water intake, don’t use the water. Cyanobacteria and their toxins are not removed with in-home water treatment systems, or by boiling water or disinfecting with chlorine, ultraviolet light (UV), or other treatment. Boiling water or disinfection can make things worse by causing cells to burst, potentially releasing toxins.
- See a doctor if someone gets ill after exposure to a cyanobacteria bloom and have them report bloom-related illnesses to the health department.
WHAT HAPPENS TO THE DATA?
Weekly data from Lake Champlain Committee monitors and others is used to populate the Cyanobacteria Tracker map housed on the Vermont Department of Health website. All reports are vetted by the Lake Champlain Committee (LCC) or our partners at VDH and the Vermont Dept. of Environmental Conservation before they show up on the tracker. You can check the map throughout the season for data on the Lake Champlain sites as well as several inland lakes. The vast majority of information provided on the site comes through LCC's cyanobacteria monitoring program. It's a clear illustration of the critical role "citizen scientist" volunteers play in assessing lake conditions. The weekly reports are also provided to public health, environmental, and recreation agencies and managers and interested citizens. Please pass on this link to anyone you think might be interested in signing up to receive our weekly emails.
If you’re interested in the results from the 2018 cyanobacteria monitoring program, click here for a PDF of the final report. We will provide an online link to the 2019 report once it’s available.
SPREADING THE WORD
As someone who cares about water, please help spread awareness about the risks of cyanobacteria and actions to take, particularly if you see people or pets recreating in bloom conditions. Your outreach builds a more informed and engaged citizenry.
Never drink, prepare food, cook or make ice or brush your teeth with untreated surface water regardless of whether or not there is a bloom. Cyanobacteria and their toxins are not removed with in-home water treatment systems, or by boiling water or disinfecting with chlorine, ultraviolet light (UV), or other treatment. Boiling water doesn't destroy cyanotoxins and can release them into the air.
Blooms are caused by a combination of warm water temperatures and high concentrations of nutrients in the water, particularly phosphorus. Reducing the supply of nutrients is key to reducing blooms. So please continue to take actions around your home and workplace and advocate for stringent controls to protect water quality.
BACKGROUND ON LCC's MONITORING PROGRAM
The Lake Champlain Committee (LCC) developed a cyanobacteria monitoring program for Lake Champlain in 2003 to raise awareness of the issue, build a database of information on bloom frequency and identify and publicize any potential health hazards. The information gathered helps us better understand the triggers for blooms and aid in the work to reduce their frequency.
LCC coordinates our monitoring program closely with Vermont and New York health, environmental and recreation agencies. We annually train hundreds of citizens in methods to assess and report on water conditions. We also conduct trainings for state and municipal park staff, town health officers and public water supply operators. LCC monitors provide important data on lake health from more than 100 Lake Champlain and inland lake locations.
If you’d like to become a monitor or simply want to learn how to recognize cyanobacteria let us know of your interests on this online form. We will host monitor training and educational sessions throughout the season.
FUNDERS & PARTNERS
The Lake Champlain Committee's cyanobacteria monitoring program is funded by LCC members and the Lake Champlain Basin Program. Key program partners include the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation, Vermont Department of Health, New York Department of Environmental Conservation, New York Department of Health, the Lake Champlain Basin Program and New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission.
Click here to become a member or make a special donation in support of LCC’s work for clean, accessible water.