By Ford Hatchett Syracuse, N.Y. (NCC News) – After testing last week revealed that harmful toxins from algal blooms had infiltrated an intake pipe into Syracuse’s water supply, the focus has been on ensuring the toxins do not reach tap water. Now, the Onondaga County Health Department is warning people who swim and fish in the lake.
“We would tell people not to go in. Don’t let your dogs drink from it, all that stuff. It can cause illness,” Onondaga County’s Director of Public Health Engineer Jeffery Till said. “If you’re in an area that has a bloom, we would recommend that you don’t fish simply because those fish are going to be pulled up through the algae. They’ll have the algae on them. Not only if you ingest it can you become sick, but if you get it on your hands and skin there could be issues with that as well.”
Till says boating should be alright, so long as no contact made with the algal blooms.
Despite the apparent health risks, Skaneateles resident Jacob Patalino says he is going to continue to swim.
“There’s definitely a lot more notice around the lake and people drawing a lot of attention to it, but for me personally I still do the same exact thing,” Patalino said.
Patalino, who swims sometimes as frequently as twice a week in the lake, says that he can tell where many of the blooms are and could see himself stop swimming if things get worse.
“I don’t think it will get worse, but if it does get worse, it will obviously affect my desire to go out and swim in our lake,” Patalino said.
Till says that he expects the algal blooms to be a recurring late summer problem for the foreseeable future and not just in Skaneateles Lake.
“Algal blooms have been around since the beginning of time. It is probably just a matter of time before they pop up in every body of water. We can expect moving forward, we’re going to see, at least at low levels, algal blooms in all the lakes,” Till says.
Till says that the blooms thrive in warmer temperatures and, specifically, sunlight. He believes that the algal bloom problem should be on the downslope as colder temperature and cloudy days approach.
This isn’t the first time harmful algae toxins were discovered in Skaneateles Lake. In 2017, toxins were found in two of Syracuse’s city water intake pipes that were believed to be too deep for the algae to reach. Till reiterated that long term solutions are needed to solve the intake pipe problems.
“We’re talking with the city about long term solutions like moving their intake from a fairly shallow intake to a deeper intake,” Till said. “But there has to be a lot of studies obviously because that is a big dollar figure that the city would have to endure.”
Skaneateles Lake provides the drinking water supply to over 200,000 people in Onondaga County.