News of Otsego County

harmful algae bloom

NORTHRUP: ‘HABsteria’ Imminent Without Planning Now
Letter from Chip Northrup

‘HABsteria’ Imminent
Without Planning Now

To avoid another summer of HABsteria, I’d suggest the following:

  1. Coordinated Plan—Since Otsego is the largest New York lake in the Chesapeake Bay watershed (which starts in front of our house on the Susquehanna), funding for watershed mitigation can be obtained from the Chesapeake Bay watershed authority—to supplement, not replace—a state-approved plan. Although the DEC 9-E Plan is imperfect, it’s better than a repeat of last summer’s Dueling-Banjos of HABsteria. Since the 9-E Plan is a political document, I’d suggest that the politicians (county, township, village, state reps and senators) and non-government organizations get involved and get busy. Since it’s a professional document, I’d suggest that professionals coordinate the effort and lay out what’s entailed in a public meeting.
  2. Coordinated Effort—Funding requests should be prioritized by where they fit into the plan. Although there may be conflicting agendas academically and organizationally, those conflicts can be addressed and resolved in private, not in the press, and without histrionics adding to HABsteria.
  3. No sacred polluters—The 9-E Plan study can identify the sources of nutrient loading. Once identified, we need to be prepared to do something about them. Even if they are us—our “compliant” septic system, our essential livestock, our own NPK fertilizer—be prepared to be surprised by what we find out.

Chip Northrup

Do blooms also like it cold? Lake Superior researcher and international team of scientists help communities better understand harmful algal blooms.
A cold-water bloom on November 1, 2018 on West Campus Pond in Lawrence, Kansas. Ted Harris, Kansas Biological Survey.

Do Blooms Also Like it Cold?

Lake Superior Researcher, International Team of Scientists Help Communities Better Understand Harmful Algal Blooms


SUPERIOR, WI—Kiyoko Yokota, certified lake manager and associate professor of biology at SUNY Oneonta, co-authored a report released last week that challenges current understandings of harmful algae blooms and may help communities better prepare for them. The results of studies led by scientist Dr. Kait Reinl, research coordinator at the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve in Superior, Wisconsin, were published on February 17 in the scientific journal, “Limnology and Oceanography Letters.”

Cyanobacterial blooms, also known as harmful algal blooms, are an environmental and public health threat around the globe. Blooms can produce unpleasant tastes and odors, deplete oxygen in water, produce toxins that are harmful to people and animals, and impact water treatment systems. Researchers’ current understanding is that blooms occur largely when water temperatures are warm or hot, but there is evidence that blooms also occur in cold water, including under ice.

NORTHRUP: Cape Cod Water: a Cautionary Tale
Letter from Chip Northrup

Cape Cod Water: a Cautionary Tale

Most septic systems are designed to remove solids and bacteria, not nitrogen and phosphorus. The harmful algae blooms, or HABs, in Otsego Lake are driven by two key nutrients: nitrogen and phosphorus. Septic systems in the Otsego Lake watershed—including ones that are adjacent to the lake—may be leaking nitrogen and phosphorus into the soil, which may subsequently enter the lake, feeding a toxic bloom. Old-fashioned septic tanks are the culprits in other areas where HABs are becoming chronic.

Most of the housing on Cape Cod is on septic tanks—which can introduce nitrogen into the ponds and creeks, triggering HABs that have closed ponds for swimming and killed wildlife. Let that be a warning to Otsego: You’re sure to fall in love with old Cape Cod. Until you gag on the water.

Chip Northrup

Collaboration for Canadarago

Collaboration for Canadarago

RICHFIELD SPRINGS – Coping with harmful algal blooms (HABs) has become a distressing reality for those who live, work, and play in and around New York’s lakes. This summer, both Otsego and Canadarago lakes were plagued with long-duration HABs, curtailing activities for much of the summer season. In response to the crisis at Canadarago, a coalition of four communities and one civic organization has formed to take action to save the lake.

The Towns of Exeter, Otsego and Richfield, the Village of Richfield Springs, and the Canadarago Lake Improvement Association have all committed to sharing the $35,000.00 cost of an engineering study for a potential sewer line around Canadarago Lake. The study will be conducted by Delaware Engineering of Albany, a firm that serves the rural communities in New York State. The idea of a sewer line was brought up by Delaware Engineering in 2018, when the firm offered to do a feasibility study at their expense. This study offered several scenarios for full or partial coverage of the lake. The consensus now is that full coverage would be the best option.

NORTHRUP: Kudos to ‘A-Team’ for Lake Protection
Letter from Chip Northrup

Kudos to ‘A-Team’ for Lake Protection

Glimmerglass Lake (aka Otsego) faces its biggest ecological challenge since the last Ice Age in the form of harmful algae blooms, “HABs,” which can make lake water not only unpotable, but un-swimmable, un-skiable, un-rowable and unpopular. Fortunately, we have the A-Team on the job: The new incoming president of the North American Lake Management Society, none other than our own Dr. Kiyoko Yokota of SUNY Oneonta, and Mr. Doug Willies, who is going to lead the effort to get a DEC-approved HAB mitigation and remediation plan in place in order to organize and formalize the response. Kiyoko is a brilliant scientist whose specialty is quagga mussels, the little culprits that may be exacerbating the HABs, and Doug is a can-do organizer and a canny Scot who can pinch the life out of a penny or a quagga mussel. We couldn’t have a better team leaders to address the challenges of keeping Glimmerglass Lake from turning into Pea Soup Pond.

Chip Northrup

Editor’s Note: The Harmful Algal Bloom Action Team—a collaboration of water professionals, researchers, and educators from the national network of Water Resources Research Institutes, the North Central Region Water Network, and Cooperative Extensions from the 12 states in the North Central Region of the United States—is holding its third annual Harmful Algal Bloom Research Symposium on January 5 and 6, 2023. This virtual symposium is free. Visit the North Central Region Water Network’s website for more information. The symposium will include discussions about the latest harmful algal bloom research, examples of effective bloom management, and the latest technologies being used to tackle this global issue.

How To Address HABs? NALMS’ New President Offers Guidance

How To Address HABs? NALMS’
New President Offers Guidance


WESTFORD – This past summer, Otsego Lake and surrounding area water bodies saw an influx of harmful algal blooms, posing a threat to biodiversity, water potability and recreational activities. HABs, caused by an overabundance of Microcystis, a harmful strain of cyanobacteria, represent one of the biggest environmental threats to area water bodies since the introduction of zebra mussels, and more recently quagga mussels. The latter two species are biofouling agents that actually cause increased levels of Microcystis, as suggested by a long-term National Science Foundation study published last year. Luckily, one area ecology expert has proposed a way forward.

Farmland Runoff, Intense Storms Raise Phosphorus Loads That Drive HABs in Seneca-Keuka Watershed, 9E Study Finds

Farmland Runoff, Intense Storms
Raise Phosphorus Loads That
Drive HABs in Seneca-Keuka
Watershed, 9E Study Finds


Originally published in October in “Water Front,” an online blog by Peter Mantius, this article is being reprinted with permission from Mantius because of its relevance to issues currently threatening water bodies statewide, including challenges to keeping our freshwater resources clean and climate-caused threats.

GENEVA, NY – A comprehensive plan to cut phosphorus pollution in the Seneca-Keuka Watershed won final state approval this week, providing a roadmap for protecting the two lakes from toxic algal blooms and flooding driven by climate change.

The 9E report recommends that mitigation efforts focus on Seneca-Keuka Watershed subbasins that produce the most phosphorus.

The Nine Element Plan, or 9E, was a “grass roots effort led by Finger Lakes watershed communities to actively restore these prized waters,” said Basil Seggos, commissioner of the State Department of Environmental Conservation. The DEC and the Department of State jointly approved the project.

Phosphorus is identified as a “primary driver” of outbreaks of cyanobacteria, or harmful algal blooms (HABs), that have plagued the lakes for at least the past seven years.

NORTHRUP: Communities Urged To Safeguard Lake
Letter from Chip Northrup

Communities Urged
To Safeguard Lake

Proposition 1 passed last week. It authorizes state bond funds for environmental infrastructure—including $650 million for clean water projects. The Otsego Lake community should make a proposal to address harmful algal blooms (HABs) in the lake.

The funding proposal should come from the Village, the townships and the county. The proposal should be crafted by the lake stakeholders and experts—led by the Biological Field Station.

HABs can be reduced by better watershed management and in-lake remediation. As of last week, state funds may be available to support our effort to keep Glimmerglass Lake from turning into Pea Soup Pond.

Let’s work on a plan to address the problem.

Chip Northrup

From the Biological Field Station, Latest Algae Bloom Data

From the Biological Field Station,

Latest Algae Bloom Data

The Biological Field Station (BFS) collected samples for total microcystin analysis around Otsego Lake yesterday, 12 September 2022. Results for each location are below. We provide these results for informational purposes and to aid in decision-making; these results represent a snapshot in time. Bloom conditions are known to change quickly.

HAB conditions were evident at 6 of the 7 locations visited; community members reported HAB conditions at points along the West shoreline north of Three Mile Point, in the North end, and Hyde Bay. When visible accumulations are present on the shoreline or the water surface, caution is warranted. A link to DOH guidance is below. The cyanobacteria causing the bloom is called Microcystis aeruginosa.   

To put these concentrations into context, according to the Department of Health Regulated Swimming Beaches are closed based on visual indication of a bloom and re-opened after the bloom has dissipated (visual assessment) and the total microcystin concentration is less than 4 ug/L in a sample collected the following day. Link to Dept. of Health Bloom Response and Regulated Beaches page

NORTHRUP: Keep the Glimmer, Lose the Slime
Letter from Chip Northrup

Keep the Glimmer, Lose the Slime

Dr Willard Harman of the Biological Field Station understands the biodynamics of toxic slime (“blue green algae”) and he knows what can be done to mitigate their blooms — which may become chronic if left unaddressed — in which case lake water would become non-potable, fish would die, and people would get sick. The Biological Field Station is going to come up with plans to attempt to address the problem —before Glimmerglass Lake becomes Pea Soup Pond.

Other watersheds have had this problem, other watersheds have addressed the problem, other watersheds have solved the problem. We are fortunate that we have Dr. Harman and the Biological Field Station to attempt to keep the glimmer in Glimmerglass without mercilessly maligning mussels.

Chip Northrup

News from the Noteworthy: Algae Bloom Affects Lake Activities
News from the Noteworthy

Algae Bloom Affects Lake Activities

The summer of 2022 will be remembered as the year our beloved Lake Otsego first suffered a Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB).

The conditions which allow a HAB to occur are known. This column reviews Village of Cooperstown public beaches, boat launch sites and most importantly, Village drinking water.

The SUNY Oneonta Biological Field Station (BFS) has monitored lake conditions for decades. This summer, when Glimmerglass State Park first noted an algae bloom on July 27 and closed, BFS began twice weekly testing at locations around the lake. The results of those tests are on their website —

EDITORIAL: Looking an Aqua Pandemic in the Eye


Looking an Aqua
Pandemic in the Eye

Recently, we at The Freeman’s Journal have become aware that some of our readers, and others who may not be our readers, still have questions about the toxic algae blooms that of late have been creeping up on us from the depths and edges of our beloved Otsego Lake. So here goes an effort to get it right.

According to NOAA, whose satellites, along with those of the EPA, NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, are picking up images of them, these blooms have been found in 2,300 lakes in the contiguous U.S., and in another 5,000 bodies of water in Alaska.

The algae, often — but not strictly — of a blue-green color, is cyanobacteria, which grows naturally in fresh water, though it also also been spotted, although less frequently, in brackish and salt water. The bacteria can also be red, neon or brown, and when it dies it exudes a rotten smell. When the water is warm, stagnant and nutrient-rich, as it presently is here, the algae can burst into blooms, which is what we are seeing along the shores of the Lake. The blooms can, and do, produce a toxin, called cyanotoxin, which can enter the mouth, nose and eyes, or be inhaled with water vapor. They can also keep blooming into the early fall, until the temperature drops.

Fernleigh Foundation Provides Grant to SUNY Oneonta Biological Field Station

Fernleigh Foundation Provides
Grant to SUNY Oneonta
Biological Field Station

Jane Forbes Clark, President of The Fernleigh Foundation, announced today that The Board of Directors has approved a $9,695 grant to SUNY Oneonta’s Biological Field Station (BFS) to do twice a week testing on Otsego Lake to better monitor the effect of the recent Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs).

“It is important that science and data drive our decisions about the impact of the HABs,” said Miss Clark. “There is not a local organization better equipped to do that than the Biological Field Station.”

Dr. Willard “Bill” Harman, CLM, Distinguished Service Professor, Rufus J. Thayer Otsego Lake Research Chair, and Director, SUNY Oneonta BFS, explained that “the HABs typically start in deeper waters, deriving nutrients from the bottom muds, which have been deposited there annually for as long as the lake has been in existence, then visible blooms sometimes rise to the surface.

Lake Update: Biological Field Station update on algae bloom in Otsego lake
Lake Update

Biological Field Station update
on algae bloom in Otsego lake

Relatively clear water at Five Mile Point on Monday, August 22, but with a close look colonies of Microcystis aeruginosa are visible in the water. Total Microcystin concentration was 0.6 µg/L , determined for a sample collected at the time of this photo.

The Biological Field Station (BFS) collected samples for toxin analysis around Otsego Lake yesterday, 22 August 2022. All sites had detectable levels of the toxin microcystin, though concentrations lake-wide were generally less than last week. Results for each location are below. We provide these results for informational purposes and to aid in decision-making; these results represent a snapshot in time. Bloom conditions are known to change rapidly with weather. When there are visible accumulations on the shoreline or the water surface, caution is warranted. A link to DOH guidance is below. The cyanobacteria causing the bloom is called Microcystis aeruginosa.  

Sample Collection Notes: Collection began at 10:00am at Three Mile Point; we proceeded clockwise around the lake. Weather conditions: overcast, occasional light rain, Air temp 70° F.  No surface accumulations were visible where samples were collected. Small accumulations were observed in protected areas around boats and docks at both BFS properties.  

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