Cyanobacteria Blooms in Agawam

: A map of the area of Shinnecock Bay currently closed to shellfishing. Courtesy of the NYSDEC.

SUNY Stony Brook confirmed this week that cyanobacteria, more commonly referred to as blue-green algae, has bloomed in Lake Agawam in Southampton. A second cyanobacteria bloom was confirmed in Lake Ronkonkoma on May 9. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation also announced last week it has temporarily banned the harvesting of shellfish and carnivorous gastropods in western Shinnecock Bay in Southampton Town after a marine biotoxin was discovered in shellfish.

While blue-green algae is naturally presents in lakes and streams in low numbers, according to Stony Brook officials blooms in shares of green, blue-green, yellow, brown or red can form, producing a floating scum on the surface of water. Health officials advise parents keep children away from affected bodies of water. Contact by pets should also be avoided as the blooms can be toxic.

Due to the toxicity of a marine biotoxin, saxitoxin, found in shellfish in Shinnecock Bay, on May 9 the DEC announced it would temporarily ban the harvesting of shellfish there to protect public health. Saxitoxin can causes paralytic shellfish poisoning. The area that is closed includes the portion of Shinnecock Bay lying west of Pine Neck Point in East Quogue and east of the Post Lane Bridge in Quogue. Approximately 1,400 acres in western Shinnecock Bay are affected by the closure.

For more information, visit dec.ny/outdoor/64824.

In other water quality news, the Concerned Citizens of Montauk announced this week it has partnered with Dr. Christopher Gobler of Stony Brook University on a monitoring program in Fort Pond, commonly the site of intense and harmful algal blooms. The program started this month and will continue this summer with weekly water quality testing, which will be posted on the DEC’s website.

Dr. Gobler is a professor at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and Director of New York State’s Center for Clean Water Technology. Dr. Gobler’s lab is currently under contract to analyze freshwater samples for the presence of blue-green algae in the New York City and Long Island region for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

“Blue-green algae represent a serious threat to the health of humans, pets, and aquatic life,” he said. “Blue-green algae blooms have been sporadically detected in Fort Pond, but frankly, the monitoring of this water body has been entirely haphazard and thus very little is known about them. A consistent, time-series monitoring program such as this will serve as the foundation for establishing the extent of the problem, which is the first step toward devising a solution.”