With record breaking heat predicted for this weekend, water bodies across New York State once again may be facing the threat of a significant water quality issue–the formation of harmful algae blooms (HABs). Shallow surface waters that are undisturbed and nutrient-rich, have the potential to form HABs when subjected to extensive heat and sunlight and warrant ongoing monitoring. While direct exposure to HABs can cause negative health effects in both humans and animals, the good news is that OCWA has taken steps to address the potential issue by alerting residents about the harmful effects of HABs, continuing its comprehensive lake water quality monitoring program, which includes monitoring for harmful toxins, and ensuring that treatment systems are in place to mitigate the harmful effects of HABs and protect the 500,000+ Central New York residents served by OCWA.
Since May 2018, OCWA in partnership with the Otisco Lake Preservation Association has mailed and/or hand-delivered hundreds of letters to residents living in the Otisco Lake watershed explaining what HABs are, what residents can do to assist with preventing cyanotoxins from forming and what residents should do if they observe HABs. Also included with these letters is a brochure from the New York State Department of Health explaining the health effects of HABs.
At OCWA’s Otisco Lake and Lake Ontario water treatment facilities, the Authority samples for HABs before and after the water is treated during the warmer months of the year. Should harmful algae be identified, OCWA has two barriers of treatment available to remove the harmful cyanotoxins. The primary treatment is our filters. We have six filters in each of our two water treatment facilities, with 30 to 36 inches of granular activated carbon (GAC) in place over a fine sand layer. The GAC can absorb cyanotoxins and help prevent them from entering the treated water. The second optional treatment barrier involves introducing powder activated carbon (PAC) to the treatment process. The PAC adsorbs the cyanotoxins, which in turn is removed by the GAC in the filters.
OCWA’s dedicated and highly experienced water quality staff will remain vigilant to protect your water supply from algae and other harmful toxins. If you have any questions about this or any other water quality issue, do not hesitate to contact us at 315-455-7061.