The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and New York State Department of Health (DOH) today reminded New Yorkers to learn about and be aware of harmful algal blooms, or “HABs,” as the 2022 HABs notification season starts. With resources such as the online HABs map and reporting system, New York is a national leader in supporting initiatives to swiftly and effectively respond to HABs across the state.
“We encourage New Yorkers to be on the lookout for HABs and report any sightings to DEC,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “DEC and DOH experts will continue to work closely with local partners to investigate HABs, make significant investments to prevent excess nutrients and other contaminants from affecting water quality, and monitor potential threats to the health or recreational use of waterbodies.”
“As we enter the warmer months, New Yorkers should be aware that the primary exposure to harmful algae blooms is through recreational contact. New York State beaches close swim areas when any suspicious blooms are sighted and New York State public drinking water supplies have effective protocols and treatment for HABs and toxins,” said New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “It’s easy to avoid risks by staying away from any discolored waters, blooms and scums and recreating in areas where the water is clear. People should always rinse off if they have had contact with a bloom and immediately seek veterinarian care if noticing any symptoms in your pets if they consumed bloom material or had contact with blooms.”
The New York Harmful Algal Bloom System, “NYHABS,” reporting system became active today and allows both the public and trained citizens to send reports of HABs to DEC electronically via a simple, user- and mobile phone-friendly form. These reports, once evaluated by DEC and DOH, are posted to the NYHABS page. The system features an interactive map of current and archived bloom locations to help keep New Yorkers informed.
HABs have been monitored closely across New York State since 2012. To address HABs, DEC works with DOH, the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and other State and local partners in leading the most comprehensive HABs monitoring and reporting program in the nation. Hundreds of waterbodies are monitored annually by DEC, DOH, State Parks, academic institutions, and volunteer monitoring partnerships. Additional public health protections are provided by DOH oversight of regulated beaches and public water systems.
When it comes to HABs, DEC encourages New Yorkers to “KNOW IT, AVOID IT, REPORT IT.” KNOW IT – HABs vary in appearance from scattered green dots in the water, to long, linear green streaks, pea soup or spilled green paint, to blue-green or white coloration. AVOID IT – People, pets, and livestock should avoid contact with water that is discolored or has algal scums on the surface. REPORT IT – If members of the public suspect a HAB, report it through the NYHABs online reporting form available on DEC’s website. Symptoms or health concerns related to HABs should be reported to DOH at [email protected].
While the exact cause of HABs is not fully understood, HABs usually occur in waters high in phosphorus and/or nitrogen. New York State has many programs and activities to reduce phosphorus and nitrogen from entering the water from surrounding lands, including stormwater permitting programs, funding for water quality improvement projects, and a nutrient law that restricts the use of phosphorus lawn fertilizer. DEC also continues to evaluate HAB mitigation technology and strategies.
For more information about HABs, including bloom notifications, which are updated daily through fall, visit DEC’s Harmful Algal Blooms web page. The HABs Program Guide, which includes information and links to resources regarding bloom prevention, management, and control, can also be downloaded from the DEC website. Click here for DOH’s public health information.
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