Dear Lake Friend,
This is our last report for the 2018 cyanobacteria monitoring season. Lake Champlain Committee (LCC) volunteers have filed more than 1,400 reports from nearly 150 sites on Lake Champlain and inland lakes this year. Together they have provided over 85% of the data for the cyanobacteria tracker map. We're grateful for all the dedicated volunteers, state and provincial agency partners, water facility operators, parks and recreation staff, and the Lake Champlain Basin Program for the ongoing efforts that makes this cyanobacteria monitoring program work. If you'd like to be part of the team next year, or want to take the training to learn how to identify cyanobacteria, please sign up here.
Below you’ll find a compilation of results from the last few weeks of the 2018 cyanobacteria monitoring season. You’ll also find a picture of Euglena, a green algae that’s a cyanobacteria look alike, witnessed recently by an LCC monitor in Keeler Bay. Cyanobacteria are much less common in late fall but blooms may still show up. While the formal reporting season is ending, LCC will continue to update the cyanobacteria tracker map while it’s still live with any bloom reports we receive in the off-season. If you witness cyanobacteria or strange conditions, please file a report using the Lake Champlain Committee's online form or call LCC at 802 658-1414 if you can't get to a computer. Be sure to take and submit pictures of what you observe. Detailed instructions are also included below to make it easy for you to file reports if you see anything that merits attention.
Thanks for caring about the health of our waterways. We hope you will stay involved with lake issues as the weather and water turn cooler. Your testimony at hearings, letters to policy makers, and discussions with family and friends can have a meaningful impact. Please let your legislators know you want them to make financial and resource investments to protect and restore water quality. We wish you a wonderful fall and winter and will be back in your Email inbox in the late spring of 2019 with more information about the 2019 cyanobacteria monitoring season.
Lori Fisher, LCC Executive Director
Lake Champlain Committee
RECENT CYANOBACTERIA MONITORING RESULTS
The information below represents the results from the latest reporting through mid-day Saturday, October 20, 2018. While blooms are far less frequent in late autumn, they can still show up in waterways. For example, Lake Memphremagog located between Newport Vermont and Magog Quebec is a glacial freshwater lake prone to late season blooms. The cyanobacteria data tracker will remain live through the end of October and LCC will continue to review and publicize any bloom reports that come in during any time of the year. You’ll find links and resources below to help you identify cyanobacteria or get involved in monitoring for the 2019 season.
Lake Champlain Monitoring Sites – 33 reports received from around the lake in recent weeks as state and municipal parks have closed, monitors have moved inland and fewer blooms are witnessed.
Missisquoi Bay – No recent reports of blooms. Based on criteria established by the VDH, this area is considered generally safe and free of cyanobacteria blooms as of the time of the last report but be mindful of changing conditions and watch for, report and avoid blooms.
St. Albans Bay – 5 reports of mixed conditions. One category 3 report from St. Albans Park on 10/11/18 which has since cleared. Based on criteria established by the VDH, this area is considered generally safe and free of cyanobacteria blooms as of the time of the last report but be mindful of changing conditions and watch for, report and avoid blooms.
Inland Sea – 11 reports indicating mainly good conditions with the exception of a category 2 report on 10/12/18 from the East Shore of Ransoms Bay which has since cleared. Based on criteria established by the VDH, this area is considered generally safe and free of cyanobacteria blooms as of the time of the last report but be mindful of changing conditions and watch for, report and avoid blooms.
Malletts Bay – No reports received in the last few weeks. Based on criteria established by the VDH, this area is considered generally safe and free of cyanobacteria blooms as of the time of the last report but be mindful of changing conditions and watch for, report and avoid blooms.
Main Lake North – 5 reports received indicating good conditions. Based on criteria established by the VDH, this area is considered generally safe and free of cyanobacteria blooms as of the time of the last report but be mindful of changing conditions and watch for, report and avoid blooms.
Main Lake Central – 9 reports received indicating good conditions. There have been no reports of blooms. Based on criteria established by the VDH, this area is considered generally safe and free of cyanobacteria blooms as of the time of the last reports. However, be mindful of changing conditions and watch for, report and avoid blooms.
Main Lake South – 3 reports indicating indicating good conditions. Based on criteria established by the VDH, this area is considered generally safe and free of cyanobacteria blooms as of the time of the last report but be mindful of changing conditions and watch for, report and avoid blooms.
South Lake – No reports this week. While our last reports were of good water quality be mindful of changing conditions and watch for, report and avoid blooms.
Other VT Lakes
Lake Iroquois – 4 reports received indicating good conditions. No bloom reports, based on the VDH criteria, this area is considered generally safe as of the time of the last report.
Lake Memphremagog – 12 reports received indicating mixed conditions but primarily low and high alerts observed at designated monitoring sites off and on during early to mid-October. Category 3 report from Sunset Bay on 10/1/18. Category 2 from Farrant Point Marina on 10/3/18 which cleared on 10/4/18. Category 3 report on 10/8/18 which dissipated to Category 2 on 10/10/18 and cleared on 10/11/18. Category 2 from Newport City Dock on 10/4/18 which worsened to Category 3 on 10/8/18, decreased to Category 2 on 10/10/18 and cleared by 10/15/18. Note that Lake Memphremagog has a history of late season blooms. Everyone in this area should be mindful of changing conditions and watch for, report and avoid cyanobacteria.
Shelburne Pond – 1 report received indicating good conditions. No bloom reports, based on the VDH criteria, this area is considered generally safe as of the time of the last report.
New York Inland Lakes
Blooms have been confirmed at several locations around the state in recent weeks but not on the New York portion of Lake Champlain. Check with 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. The site is generally updated at least weekly during the monitoring 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 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.
There is no central reporting location for beach closure information on Lake Champlain. Whenever possible, check with local beach management or area state or municipal health officers regarding conditions and remember that beaches may be closed for reasons other than cyanobacteria blooms.
Vermont Drinking Water Facilities Report
For the fourth summer in a row, the VT Dept. of Health and VT Dept. of Env. Conservation collaborated to conduct cyanotoxin analysis of raw and finished water for the 22 Lake Champlain-sourced water systems. The tests began in July and ran through the end of September. There have been no detections this summer. Click here to view results from recent weeks of testing at Vermont Drinking Water Facilities and for a compilation of results from past years.
CHECK OUT THE CYANOBACTERIA DATA TRACKER MAP
You can see a full compilation of the monitoring reports on the cyanobacteria tracker map housed at the Vermont Department of Health website through the end of October 2018. LCC adds reports on a daily basis during the monitoring season and they are accessible to anyone with an internet connection. The site is a great resource to learn about conditions throughout the season. You can select a lake segment or lake, zoom in on sites, and find out the status of lake conditions based on the most recent report. Please check out the site and let other lake users know about this resource. The vast majority of these points are provided by LCC monitors. The tracker will go offline in late October but will be accessible again around mid-June 2019 when the next monitoring season begins.
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.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU SEE OR SUSPECT A BLOOM
- Report it to the Lake Champlain Committee using our online form. Click here for how to assess conditions. (See the instructions below about using the online reporting form.)
- 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 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.
- 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.
LCC Cyanobacteria Reporting Form
If you think you see a bloom, use the Lake Champlain Committee’s online reporting form to report the conditions as soon as possible. Fill in the following information on the LCC online form:
- Lake (we oversee monitoring sites on Lake Champlain and several inland lakes)
- Lake Region (if you don’t know it, just make your best guess and we’ll correct it if necessary)
- Municipality (the town/city where you observed cyanobacteria)
- Site # (put “Not applicable” unless you’re a trained monitor and have an assigned number)
- Site Name (provide the name the sites is usually referenced as; if it’s your home location, use the street address or some way to identify it on a map)
- If you observed a bloom at a public beach or recreation area be sure to let on-site personnel know about the condition and list the full name of the person you spoke with in the box provided. If you didn’t note the condition to anyone, please note the reason why (such as no one on-site).
- Type of Report (choose “Supplemental”)
- Routine weekly reporting day (skip this or select “Filing supplemental report”)
- Date of observation (Month/Day/Year – for example 10/29/2018)
- Time of observation (military time; for example, 1:00 pm should be listed as 13:00)
- Category for water conditions (click here if you need further guidance to determine the category)
- Additional Details (provide any information that will be helpful to us in assessing your report, such as extent of the bloom, guidance for reviewing any photos you submit, any questions you have)
- Photos (we appreciate photos any time you report but need them especially when you report category 1 d, category 2 or category 3 conditions; the form provides guidance on the need for close-up, wide-angle and jar test pictures; file uploads are limited to 10Mb total per form)
- Extent of bloom (check “no bloom” if you’re reporting categories 1 a through 1 d)
- Cyanobacteria color (check “no color” or “other” when not reporting a bloom and describe in the “Color details” section below)
- Water Temperature (if you have a thermometer, add the temperature in Fahrenheit)
- Water Surface (use the drop-down menu to note the water surface when you assessed conditions)
- Check all the reasons you’re using the LCC reporting form that apply
- Contact information (please fill in all the fields)
- Please check your work carefully before pressing the “Submit” button
To help us assess the conditions you’re observing, include at least three photos (our form has a 10 Mb limit per report upload) with your report:
- A close-up of the bloom.
- A wide-angle photo of the bloom and surrounding land and water.
- A photo of the water sample in a glass jar, after it has sat in the sun for 30 minutes, with a white piece of paper behind the jar that includes the date, sample time, photo time, site #, site name, town, category, water temperature (if possible) and your name. If you witness a bloom, don’t delay in sending in your report and photos, but in most cases, a half hour will have elapsed between the time you took your water sample and the time you have filed your report.
It's very helpful if you can save your photos titling them with the date-photographer's name-location-water category-and photo type as shown in the example below. We receive hundreds of photos each season and don’t have time to re-label them.
Example file name: 2018-10-31_Bellatrix Monitor_Bulwagga Bay_Category 3 Bloom Close-up
WHAT HAPPENS TO THE CYANOBACTERIA MONITORING DATA?
Lake Champlain Committee monitor reports are recorded on the Lake Champlain cyanobacterial tracking map housed on the Vermont Department of Health (VDH) website. The tracker will remain live through 10/31/18. 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. 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 these "citizen scientist" monitors play in assessing lake conditions. The weekly reports are also provided to public health, environmental, and recreation agencies and managers and interested citizens. LCC will continue to accept water quality reports throughout the year and will pass on any relevant information to state and provincial environmental and public health agencies. The tracker will be available again in 2019 by mid-June when the cyanobacteria monitoring program resumes.
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.
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 join the monitoring team for the 2019 season, please indicate your interest through this online form. We’ll be in contact with you in the spring to schedule training sessions and gear up for another reporting 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.