Lake George algal bloom research to expand to western NY lake in worse shape


Jefferson Project research specialist Brian Mattes collects algae samples on Chautauqua Lake as part of a
new $1 million research project studying harmful algal blooms and other water quality threats. (Photo:
Dave Munch, Chautauqua Institution)

LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – For the last eight years, The Jefferson Project has performed foundational research on the waters of Lake George, which had been hailed as one of the key lakes in New York to still be untouched by harmful algal blooms.

Then, last November, the lake’s first bloom was found.

Now, the eight years of research the project has performed at Lake George will be mirrored at another state lake that’s had many more blooms to call its own. This week, the project announced the start of a second research project on Chautauqua Lake, in Western New York’s Chautauqua County.

The people behind the project say the difference between the two lakes – one largely clean, the other hurt by toxic blooms for decades – is exactly the strength of the project.

“The teaming of The Jefferson Project with Chautauqua Institution will powerfully advance the science that will discover the root causes and drivers of HABs, benefiting not only Lake George and Chautauqua Lake, but lakes across New York State and around the world,” said Jeff Killeen, Chairman of The FUND for Lake George, one of the groups behind the project. “Only with definitive science will we be able to surgically focus on true HABs solutions and remediation.”

The new $1 million project is a data-gathering effort to track where and when blooms show up on the lake.

The project uses a “smart sensor network” deployed around a lake to monitor weather patterns, water circulation and general conditions in both lakes, and the streams that feed into them. That helps the researchers at the Jefferson Project better understand what they can do to prevent future outbreaks, whether it’s a lake’s second or 200th bloom.

“State-of-the-art technologies, including AI, provide us with a complement of tools to address water-quality issues, environmental stressors, and to better understand and predict HABs phenomena within the context of a changing climate,” said John Kelly III, former Vice President and current advisor for IBM, which is also involved with the Jefferson Project.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is also a collaborator. And, for the task of bringing the data-gathering task out west, Chautauqua Institution is involved as well, employing a background of skills and resources in solving issues in the Chautauqua County area of New York.

Algal blooms can stem from nutrient runoff into a water body, including from septic systems. The DEC says that Lake George’s bloom last fall only lasted a couple months, but e. coli runoff has been found in the lake as recently as two weeks ago, when Million Dollar Beach was closed due to unsafe levels.

Both lakes are on a list of 12 water bodies marked as high-priority for protection by the state of New York as part of a statewide harmful algal bloom initiative.

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