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Schumer warns of toxic algae buildups in north country lakes

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Several Northern New York lakes have shown signs of contamination from blue-green algae blooms, and Sen. Charles E. Schumer is calling on federal officials to implement new safeguards to track the algae’s impact.

Sen. Schumer, D-N.Y., said the algae produce cyanotoxin, which can create problems for waterways that supply drinking water. In recreational waters the toxin can put boaters and swimmers at risk.

“Toxic algae blooms threaten to greatly undercut the value of this resource, and what’s more, have the potential to contaminate drinking water and make people sick,” the senator said in a statement.

Among the contaminated water bodies are Jefferson County’s Butterfield Lake, St. Lawrence County’s Black Lake, Silver Lake and Grass Lake, and Oswego County’s Lake Neatahwanta, Lake Pleasant and Lorton Lake.

Overall, the senator said, more than 100 lakes are contaminated by the algae.

In a news release, Sen. Schumer called for the Environmental Protection Agency to issue guidance to help local water treatment plants test for and treat cyanotoxins. Other countries do this, including Canada.

The senator also recommended that the agency develop safety criteria to help states better identify and clean contaminated water bodies.

Another way to address the problem is to upgrade aging sewer systems, which have overflows and septic discharges that can cause trouble. Also, $1 billion was set aside in the recently approved Farm Bill for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to reduce the runoff of phosphorous.

Sen. Schumer’s full list of waterways with algae problems can be found at http://wdt.me/Algae-report. A state DEC website about algae and ways to spot them can be found at http://wdt.me/DPcDR8.

Toxic algae report
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