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July 17, 2020

Dear Lake Friend,
 
It’s been another busy week for the Lake Champlain Committee (LCC) Cyanobacteria Monitoring Program with 152 reports from Lake Champlain and inland lakes from Sunday July 12 through Friday July 17 at 1:30 pm! Good conditions were observed in Malletts Bay and Missisquoi Bay, there was one alert report in Main Lake Central and one in Main Lake North with mixed alert conditions in St. Albans Bay, the Inland Sea, and Main Lake South. Lake Carmi also had cyanobacteria alerts.

You’ll find further details of this week’s results below along with background information and visuals about cyanobacteria and links to other resources to help you stay engaged about water quality. Our next online training session about cyanobacteria will be held on Wednesday, July 22 at 9:00 a.m. via Zoom. Sign up here for educational purposes and here if you want to monitor during the 2020 season.
 
Click on the links below to bring you directly to that section of the email

More hot and sunny weather is in the forecast so please keep a watchful eye on conditions as you venture to waterways to cool off!
 
Thanks for caring about water quality, 

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.

LEARN MORE ABOUT CYANOBACTERIA
Check out the Lake Champlain Committee (LCC) website for more information about cyanobacteria. You’ll find additional resources at the links below to help you identify and avoid blooms.
 
Educational Resources Reporting Guidance Cyanobacteria Online Training Sessions

JULY 12 – 17 CYANOBACTERIA MONITORING RESULTS
The information below summarizes reporting results from Sunday, July 12, 2020 – Friday, July 17 at 1:30 PM. High alert reports are indicated by red text and low alerts are indicated by yellow text. Check the cyanobacteria data tracker for the latest conditions, but be aware of changing conditions. If you observe blooms during the weekend at any public recreation area, please contact the town or county health officer in addition to filing your report(s):

Lake Champlain Monitoring Sites – 120 reports were received from around the lake last week. Blooms occurred in the following regions: Inland Sea, Main Lake Central, Main Lake North, Main Lake South and St. Albans Bay. Further details are in the section write-ups below.

Lake Champlain Beaches – Good conditions were reported at area beaches. 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:
  • Malletts Bay | Generally safe conditions were observed for 6 of the 6 reports
  • Missisquoi Bay | Generally safe conditions were observed for the 1 report
The following lake regions experienced low alert conditions:
  • Main Lake Central | Alert level conditions were observed for 1 of the 37 reports
    • Location and date of the low alert conditions
      • Hills Point, Charlotte, 7/13
  • Main Lake North | Alert level conditions were observed for 1 of the 10 reports
    • Location and date of the low alert conditions
      • Point of the Tongue, Alburgh, 7/13
People recreating in or around these regions should watch for changing conditions and report and avoid cyanobacteria.
 
The following lake regions experienced mixed alert conditions:
  • Inland Sea | Alert level conditions were observed for 6 of the 38 reports
    • Locations and dates of low alert conditions
      • Graveyard Point, North Hero, 7/15 and 7/16
      • Cedar Ledge, North Hero, 7/15 | Good conditions were reported on 7/16
      • East Shore North, Grand Isle, 7/15
    • Locations and dates of high alert conditions
      • Idlewild Road 2, South Hero, 7/15 | Good conditions were reported on 7/16
      • Ladd Point, Grand Isle, 7/15
  • Main Lake South | Alert level conditions were observed for 3 of the 20 reports
    • Location and date of the high alert conditions
      • Long Point, North Ferrisburgh, 7/12
    • Locations and dates of the low alert conditions
      • Town Farm Bay, Charlotte, 7/13 | Good conditions were observed on 7/17
      • Camp Dudley Boat House, Westport 7/13 | Good conditions were observed on 7/15
  • St. Albans Bay | Alert conditions were observed for 2 of the 8 reports
    • Location and date of the high alert conditions
      • Kill Kare State Park Boat Launch, St. Albans Town, 7/13
    • Location and date of the low alert conditions
      • Melville Landing, Georgia, 7/13
People recreating in or around these regions should watch for changing conditions and report and avoid cyanobacteria.
 
VT Inland Waterbodies

The following waterbodies experienced good conditions:
  • Caspian Lake | 1 report
  • Coles Pond | 1 report
  • Halfmoon Lake | 1 report
  • Indian Brook Reservoir | 1 report
  • Joes Pond | 1 report
  • Lake Dunmore | 2 reports
  • Lake Fairlee | 1 report
  • Lake Iroquois | 2 reports
  • Lake Memphremagog | 3 reports
  • Lake Morey | 1 report
  • Lake Pinneo | 1 report
  • North Hartland Reservoir | 1 report
The following waterbodies experienced mixed alert conditions:
  • Lake Carmi | Alert level conditions were observed for 6 of the 16 reports
    • Low alert conditions were observed on 7/13 and 7/15. Good conditions were observed on 7/16.
    • High alert conditions were observed on 7/14 and 7/15. Good conditions were observed on 7/16.

People recreating in or around Lake Carmi 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. For more information and to sign up for weekly notifications of harmful algal blooms in New York, visit the New York Harmful Algae Blooms Notification Page. This map shows where blooms have recently been reported outside of Lake Champlain. (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.
 
Click here to see New York’s photo gallery of pictures of blooms along with photos of non-harmful green algae.
 
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 at the link above on the New York Harmful Algae Blooms Notification Page. The site also includes cyanobacteria blooms for the New York portion of Lake Champlain.
 
Quebec
Quebec also maintains a reporting page for cyanobacteria blooms. It includes links to lakes that are closed and other resources. Click here for a downloadable PDF guide in French about cyanobacteria from the Quebec Environmental Ministry.
 
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. The tests began this week and will run for twelve weeks into October. Click here to view results from past year’s testing at Vermont Drinking Water Facilities from 2015 through 2019.

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 they 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
  • Report it using LCC’s online form.
  • Click here for how to assess conditions.
  • 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.
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. Feel free to forego taking a physical sample for photography. If you see a bloom, avoid contact with water containing cyanobacteria and file a report right away.
 
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 2003/2004 and has overseen the citizen-based program ever since. The focus of the program is 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 will help 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 be hosting 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.
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