Blue-green algae reappears in N.Y. part of reservoir

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released two advisories and two cautions Wednesday for a harmful algae bloom (HAB) occurring in the New York portion of the Allegheny Reservoir.

Impacted areas include Quaker Bay, Sawmill Bay, and the reach of the reservoir between Quaker Bay and Sawmill.

Doug Helman, resource manager for the Kinzua Dam, said, “We’ll keep track of it on a weekly basis. The water temperatures in New York State are warmer, because it’s not as deep, the bays are shallower. Last year we had lower lake levels and higher temperatures. It didn’t come any farther down than Willow Bay, which is right on the state line, and we don’t expect it will this year either. It’s naturally occurring, when the temperature climbs, it just pops.”

Jim Welch, manager for the Onoville Marina, said, “You can’t really see anything here, although when the clouds hide the sun, there is a green color to the water when it is usually blue. Last fall it was very noticeable.”

He added that some boaters were reporting water temperatures as high as 83 degrees. The current temperature at Kinzua Dam is 77.

Last year, there were HABs in the reservoir in August through early November.

The Pittsburgh District’s HAB Plan recommends the use of the World Health Organization’s guidelines for managing exposure to blue green algae (BGA) in recreational waters. The guidelines were developed from direct evidence of acute, non-cumulative health effects associated with primary body contact in recreational surface waters with blue green algae blooms.

When BGA cell counts are less than 20,000 cells/milliliters (ml), there is no risk to public health through primary body contact. There are about five milliliters in one teaspoon.

When BGA cell counts are greater than 20,000 cells/ml but less than 100,000 cells/ml, risk is generally limited to skin irritation, gastrointestinal illness or other allergenic effects. This is a HAB Advisory level.

When BGA cell counts are greater than 100,000 cells/ml, there is a high risk for adverse health impacts. This is an HAB Caution level.

When a HAB is confirmed, appropriate signs are posted at lake access areas to inform the public of associated risk and algae samples are collected and analyze weekly. Signs are posted until algae cell counts remain below action levels for at least two weeks.

The BGA cell counts and HAB action levels on July 16 July were: the lake upstream of Quaker Bay, 75,934 cells/ml, earning an HAB Advisory level; Quaker Bay, 145,969 cells/ml, carrying an HAB Caution level, the lake downstream of Quaker Bay, 158,604 cells/ml, HAB Caution level. Sawmill Bay, 46,378 cells/ml, HAB Advisory level.