News Releases

July 03, 2012

Trained Volunteers To Help Spot Algae Blooms This Summer

The back loop of Tri Town Road in Addison is as close to Lake Champlain as any road in Vermont, but the view lately has not been as scenic as usual. A light-green film of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) scum coats the water surface. Lisa Windhausen, of West Addison, took photos of the mushy green water, including a photo of water collected in a large glass flower vase, and sent them to the Vermont Department of Health.

The Health Department alerted nearby state parks, public beaches and water intake facilities to monitor for ongoing bloom activity.

“Blooms typically start in mid-July, but we are seeing them early this year,” said State Toxicologist Sarah Vose. “We want people to know where the blooms are so they – and their pets – can avoid contact.”

The Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Laboratory at the University of Vermont (UVM) used to collect samples each week from Lake Champlain throughout the summer. The results were shared with the Health Department and Department of Environmental Conservation.

This year some samples will still be collected, but UVM and the Health Department will rely on a visual monitoring system from trained volunteers.

“In prior years and some locations, volunteers rarely saw cyanobacteria blooms. This change to visual assessment will lower analytical costs, and I am confident that the Health Department and Vermont DEC will collect samples where needed to protect public health” said Mary Watzin, dean of the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources.

Two volunteer locations, North Beach and North Hero State Park, will be routinely sampled for toxin and phytoplankton during 2012.

The current weather conditions (light winds, warm temperatures) are ideal for algae growth. Algae accumulations or “blooms” have been reported on the Vermont shoreline of Lake Champlain between Kingsland Bay and the Champlain Bridge. Changing winds and weather fronts will move algae or the blooms can die off over time. Anyone spending time on the lake should watch for algae and avoid these areas.

Children are at higher risk of exposure to blue-green algae because they are more likely to drink the water. Pets may also drink the water and consume algae when they lick their fur.

If you believe that someone or a pet has become ill because of blue-green algae, please contact the Health Department at 1-800-439-8550 (and press 7).

Source: Department of Health
Last Updated at: July 03, 2012 10:04:04