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Harmful algal blooms steal Finger Lakes swim days — and some lifeguards’ wages

Harmful algal blooms are doing more than just closing beaches this summer— they may also be pushing people out of jobs.

Gavin VanHorn, a village of Aurora lifeguard who works at the Wells College dock on Cayuga Lake, came to Aurora’s board meeting last Wednesday to discuss getting a pay raise to help make up for the limited number of work hours he’s seen this year due to HABs.

“We only get 33.5 (hours per week) when blue-green algae doesn’t come around,” VanHorn said Wednesday. “So on those days, for you it might seem like ‘one day we can’t swim,’ but for us it’s another day we’re not getting paid and it’s a day without income and that can be scary for us.”

VanHorn, who will be a freshman at Binghamton University in the fall, said this lack of income is especially concerning considering he has school bills he needs to pay.

As of Wednesday, Aurora’s swim area had only been open 13 days of the 24-day season due to the blue-green algae.

In an interview Friday, VanHorn elaborated, sharing that it’s frustrating to expect a certain amount of money to come in only to lose many of those hours due to water quality issues.

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