Third Annual Finger Lakes Harmful Algal Blooms Seminar | U.S. Green Building Council
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Third Annual Finger Lakes Harmful Algal Blooms Seminar

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Learn more about how to reduce you and your family's exposure to harmful algal blooms during the third annual Finger Lakes Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) seminar hosted by USGBC New York Upstate in partnership with Corning, Finger Lakes Institute, OBG and New York State Department of Health.

From this seminar, you will learn:

  • what harmful algal blooms are and the public health concerns
  • understand the symptoms associated with exposure to harmful algal bloom exposure for both humans and animals
  • about the role of nitrogen in HAB occurrence
  • about effective lake management strategies for controlling algal blooms
  • understand why phosphorus management strategies alone cannot reduce the occurrence of HABs
  • learn the methods being employed in a new nitrogen study being conducted in the Finger Lakes region.

Free public parking is available along South Main St. (Rt. 14). Additional parking is available in the Hobart and William Smith Colleges Medbery Parking Lot located on Pulteney Street across from the HWS Scandling Center.

  • 2 p.m. — Welcome: Lisa Cleckner, PhD, MBA, Director, Finger Lakes Institute
  • 2:15 p.m. — HABS and Public Health In NYS, NYS Department of Health
  • 3 p.m. — "Nutrients and cyanobacteria in the Great Lakes region and beyond: there's more to it than just phosphorus" | Dr. Mark McCarthy and Dr. Silvia E. Newell, Wright State University
  • 3:30 p.m. — "Lake Management for St. Regis Lakes" | Dr. Mark Greene and Kyle Buelow, OBG
  • 4 p.m. — Panel discussion with participants
  • 4:30 p.m. — Hands-on testing and sampling, Finger Lakes Institute
  • 5 p.m. — Networking reception with Finger Lakes Wines and Beers
  • 5:30 p.m. — A barbecue dinner, including vegetarian sides

"Nutrients and cyanobacteria in the Great Lakes region and beyond: there's more to it than just phosphorus"
Dr. Mark McCarthy and Dr. Silvia E. Newell, Wright State University

Harmful cyanobacterial blooms have become an increasingly common occurrence in aquatic systems of the Great Lakes region and worldwide. These blooms, some of which produce a variety of harmful toxins, are driven by increased nutrient loading (eutrophication) and climate change.

Nitrogen and phosphorus from agricultural, domestic, and industrial discharges, as well as atmospheric deposition, are primarily responsible for the increased nutrient loading. Most of the research and management efforts to understand and mitigate bloom occurrence has focused on phosphorus. Early research on eutrophication in freshwater systems suggested that phosphorus is the only nutrient appropriate for management efforts because cyanobacteria could access the unlimited supply of atmospheric dinitrogen (N2) via nitrogen fixation.

However, not all cyanobacteria are capable of nitrogen fixation, and levels of reactive (fixed) nitrogen in the biosphere have increased 10-fold since 1960, with the majority of that anthropogenic nitrogen being used for fertilizer. While phosphorus management efforts have had some success, albeit temporary in many cases, in reducing the severity of nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria blooms, many other aquatic systems have not responded to phosphorus-focused management. In fact, blooms of non-nitrogen-fixing genera have emerged as a global problem in recent decades, including in Lake Erie, which is often identified as 'successfully remediated' as a result of phosphorus loading reductions.

The disruption of drinking water supplies for the City of Toledo in 2014 and record bloom biomass in 2015 are strong evidence that Lake Erie is far from being successfully remediated. Historical and ongoing resistance to controlling nitrogen in watersheds is not consistent with the current state of knowledge on modern eutrophication issues. Research on the loading and internal recycling of nitrogen is urgently needed to fill the vast information gaps in our understanding and inform managers of its role in promoting these modern blooms.

"Lake Management for St. Regis Lakes"
Dr. Mark Greene and Kyle Buelow, OBG

The St. Regis Property Owners Association (SRPOA) has long been concerned with the increasing frequency and abundance of blue-green algal blooms impacting the recreational value (e.g., swimming and boating) of Upper and Lower St. Regis Lakes and Spitfire Lake. OBG was retained by the SRPOA to work with the Adirondack Watershed Institute (AWI) at Paul Smiths College to develop a targeted approach to achieve the following primary goals and objectives of the stakeholders:

  • Reduce algal populations that affect drinking water quality, aesthetics, and recreational uses
  • Minimize the concentration of phosphorus in the water column to control how much of this limiting nutrient is available to support algal growth
  • Identify data/information gaps that, if filled, could help stakeholders achieve these goals and objectives.

OBG, in partnership with EcoLogic, LLC, developed quantitative hydrologic and nutrient (phosphorus) budgets for each lake that were incorporated into a mass balance model to estimate nutrient dynamics within the systems. Long-term water quality and watershed data from the AWI and from various databases and reports specific to the three lakes of interest were compiled in the Wisconsin Lake Modeling Suite (WiLMS) to quantify total nutrient loading values for each lake given external (watershed and septic system) and internal (nutrient release from the sediment) sources.

The modeling effort identified internal loading as the greatest source of phosphorus for each lake, suggesting that historical nutrient loads are re-mobilized during summer stratification and may lead to blue-green algal blooms observed during the growing season.