LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Almost two years ago, something happened for the first recorded time on Lake George. A harmful algal bloom was found in the waters of a lakefront property on Assembly Point, just west of Harris Bay. Two years later, it hasn’t been forgotten.

This month, the Lake George Association is launching AlgaeWatch, a new program asking property and business owners on the water to do their part in keeping an eye out for future blooms. How? If you’re on the lake, you’re practically already doing it.

“It’s the easiest thing they can do,” said Brea Arvidson, Water Quality Research Manager for the LGA. “Most people, if they’re looking at the shoreline, they’re already looking at the water. All they need to do is look a little bit more.”

AlgaeWatch asks anyone who spends a lot of time on the shore of Lake George to keep an eye out for algae. It doesn’t need to be hazardous yet – and it’s not up to general citizens to determine whether it is. If a participant sees algae growing on their dock, boat or shoreline, they can report it back to the LGA.

Not all algae is dangerous. As Arvidson points out, algae growth is normal in a water body like Lake George. That growth can grow dangerous if fed by nutrient runoff from aging septic systems, roadways and other sources – which is what happened at Assembly Point in 2020, and four more times at other spots around Lake George in 2021. So far, no algal blooms have been found in 2022.

What happens when a bloom is found

Algal blooms can look like pea soup, or paint, or like streaks of green – the latter being what the 2020 bloom looked like. That variation is why the LGA wants to know about any significant algae growth anywhere around the shore, so it (and partner The Jefferson Project) can keep an active inventory of where blooms could show up.

Algae blooms aren’t always harmful, either, but that isn’t a risk anyone should take. If a bloom is identified, the advice is the same whether from the LGA, Jefferson Project, or the DEC: Don’t touch it. Blooms can become toxic to both humans and pets.

If a harmful algal bloom is identified, the first step is testing. An LGA or Jefferson Project staff member will visit the site in question to retrieve a small amount of algae, testing it for toxin analysis, identification, water quality, and in order to find out what elements in the water are feeding its growth.

Meanwhile, the AlgaeWatch report will go to both the LGA and DEC. Those two groups will communicate. If needed, more samples will be sent for lab testing.

Once a bloom is out and growing, it’s a monitoring game – for as long as possible. The 2020 bloom eventually grew outward, extending to three other bays and the village of Lake George – becoming functionally invisible in the process.

In time, that bloom dissipated – which is something of a best-case scenario. As with the future blooms that the LGA hopes to get ahead of, that case required an understanding of the factors that led the bloom to growth to begin with.

“A lot of weather conditions caused that bloom to form,” said Arvidson. “It was unseasonably warm, with more wind, and eventually the bloom became platonic algae again.”

From the LGA to the DEC and other governmental organizations, there’s a lot of effort going into improving the conditions around Lake George which, if left alone, can lead to algal bloom growth. Just this week, Warren County announced new funding available to help lakeside homeowners repair or replace aging septic tanks, which are thought to be a big contributor.

Although 2022 has been quiet so far, 2021’s quartet of blooms means there’s a lot of work to be done. The good news is, the public seems to be more aware of the algae issue than ever.

“I think a lot of people are noticing a difference,” said Arvidson. “In the last couple years, we’ve gotten a lot more calls from people seeing algae on their boats and docks, asking ‘is this okay?'”

Anyone who wants to get involved with AlgaeWatch can do so through the Lake George Association website.