WGVA 106.3FM 1240AMMix 98.5101.7 The WallWFLR Finger Lakes Country Classic Hits 99.3The Lake 100.1/104.5 WAUB 96.3FM 1590AM

DEC Unveils HABs Online Notification System


New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Interim Commissioner Sean Mahar and State Department of Health (DOH) Commissioner Dr. James McDonald today remind New Yorkers to learn about and be aware of harmful algal blooms, or “HABs,” as the 2024 HABs notification season starts. DEC’s New York Harmful Algal Bloom System (NYHABS) is now active, providing New Yorkers, including trained citizens, to send reports of HABs to DEC electronically via a simple user- and mobile phone-friendly form.

“As New York experiences warming temperatures, DEC is working closely with the State Department of Health and our local partners to investigate harmful algal blooms and make significant investments to prevent excess nutrients and other contaminants from negatively affecting water quality,” DEC Interim Commissioner Mahar said. “DEC’s updated map and reporting system allows for more effective monitoring of potential threats to the health or recreational use of waterbodies, and we encourage New Yorkers to be on the lookout for HABs and report any sightings.”

DEC and DOH evaluates HABs reports and once confirmed, reports are posted to the NYHABS page. The system features an interactive map of current and archived bloom locations to help keep New Yorkers informed about potential HABs. With resources such as the online HABs map and reporting system, New York continues to be a national leader in supporting initiatives to address HABs across the state and to ensure effective communication to the public. DEC works with DOH, the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), and other State and local partners in leading the most comprehensive HABs monitoring and reporting program in the nation. In cooperation with its partners, DEC monitors hundreds of waterbodies annually and works with DOH and OPRHP to ensure the public and environment are protected.

State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said, “Exposure to harmful algae blooms can cause health effects in people and animals, including pets, when water with blooms is touched, swallowed, or when airborne droplets are inhaled. New York State is aggressively proactive in monitoring and combatting these blooms to protect public health, and this new map and reporting system will allow New Yorkers to better ‘Know it, Avoid it, and Report it.’”

While cyanobacteria are naturally occurring in the environment, certain conditions lead to accumulations that become HABs. Blooms are likely triggered by a combination of factors that include excess nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen, lots of sunlight, low-water or low-flow conditions, calm water, and warm temperatures. HAB occurrence and reporting typically increase throughout the season with the most reports received during the warmest months of August and September. Regardless of the presence of toxins, HABs can pose a risk to public health.

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].

For more information about HABs, including bloom notifications, which are updated daily through fall, visit DEC’s Harmful Algal Blooms webpage. The HAB Program Guide, which includes information and links to resources regarding bloom prevention, management, and control, can also be downloaded from the DEC website. Visit DOH’s website for DOH’s public health information.

DEC water quality monitoring programs such as the Lake Classification and Inventory Program conduct HAB monitoring statewide to complement data and information generated by NYHABS. These programs carry out monitoring surveys that generate datasets to characterize statewide conditions. These monitoring strategies are well established, recommended, and utilized by DEC’s federal partners such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and help identify occurrences of HABs that inform statewide HAB trends analyses. Surface water quality data generated by DEC is reviewed according to standard quality assurance procedures and made publicly available through the Division of Water Monitoring Portal. These data, along with applied research efforts, provide insight into the management of HABs and water quality issues across New York. DEC’s Harmful Algal Blooms webpage provides access to these research efforts targeting the management of HABs in addition to information on understanding HABs, potential health risks, and efforts to develop plans to reduce nutrients as the main controllable factor driving HABs. Additionally, DEC published its HABs Research Guide to inform statewide research priorities.

Using the most up-to-date research on controllable causes, DEC established a holistic approach to managing and reducing HABs in the state. DEC’s approach includes:

Combining these long- and short-term strategies along with advancing research and understanding of HABs provides a strong and foundation for HAB reduction and management in New York State.

To date, New York has awarded more than $428 million in grants designed to reduce the frequency of algal blooms across the state by targeting phosphorus and nitrogen pollution, controllable factors that can contribute to the occurrence of HABs, and more than $14 million to research and development, pilot projects, and advanced HABs monitoring.

Have all the Finger Lakes news from Finger Lakes News Radio delivered to your email every morning for FREE!  Sign up by clicking here.

Get the top stories on your radio 24/7 on Finger Lakes News Radio 96.3 and 1590, WAUB and 106.3 and 1240, WGVA, and on Finger Lakes Country, 96.1/96.9/101.9/1570 WFLR.