March 6, 2018
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces Second Harmful Algal Blooms Summit in Syracuse

Governor Cuomo Announces Second Harmful Algal Blooms Summit in Syracuse

Second of Four HABs Summits Brings Together National and State Experts With Local Steering Committees to Develop Action Plans in Three Waterbodies: Cayuga, Owasco and Skaneateles Lakes

Evening Summit Sessions to Allow Residents to Hear from Harmful Algal Blooms Experts

Part of $65 Million State of the State Initiative to Combat Harmful Algal Blooms

Lessons Learned from Studying 12 Priority Lakes Will Be Applied to Waterbodies Across the State

Governor Andrew M Cuomo today announced the New York State Departments of Environmental Conservation, Health, and Agriculture and Markets kicked off the second of four summits supporting the state's comprehensive effort to protect vulnerable waterbodies in Upstate New York from harmful algal blooms, or "HABs." The Central New York Summit taking place in Syracuse is part of the $65 million four-point initiative unveiled in the Governor's 2018 State of the State to aggressively combat these algal blooms. The increasing frequency and duration of harmful algal blooms threaten drinking water quality and the recreational use of lakes essential to upstate tourism.

"Protecting New York's water quality is a top priority of this administration, and in order to ensure future generations have access to clean drinking water, we will continue to work with communities throughout Central New York to address the growing threat of harmful algal blooms," Governor Cuomo said. "By bringing together experts from across the country at this regional summit, the state and the regional community will work together to develop new and innovative strategies to safeguard our water for years to come."

As part of the 2018 State of the State, Governor Cuomo directed the state's Water Quality Rapid Response Team, co-chaired DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos and DOH Commissioner Howard Zucker in partnership with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, to convene four regional Harmful Algal Blooms summits. The summits bring together national and state experts, including scientists from Kansas, Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan and North Carolina, as well as SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, SUNY Stony Brook, Cornell University, DEC, DOH, the New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee, and local stakeholders.

Central New York Summit

The Central New York summit taking place in Syracuse will guide the development of three action plans to reduce harmful algal blooms in the following waterbodies: Cayuga Lake, Owasco Lake and Skaneateles Lake. These waterbodies are typical of lakes that support recreation, and in addition they provide drinking water to surrounding communities.

Lessons from these lakes will be applied to other water bodies throughout the region and the state, characterized by surrounding residential development, on-site septic systems, significant upland agricultural use, and other nutrient inputs - a common set of characteristics found in these three Central New York lakes.

Experts attending the Central New York Summit are:

  • Dr. Greg Boyer, SUNY ESF
  • Mr. Karl Czymmek, Cornell PRO-DAIRY
  • Dr. Tim Davis, Bowling Greene State University, Ohio
  • Dr. Art DeGaetano, Cornell University
  • Dr. Dave Matthews, Upstate Freshwater Institute
  • Dr. Hans Paerl, University of North Carolina
  • Dr. Judy Westrick, Wayne State University
  • Dr. Steve Willhelm, University of Tennessee

The public is invited to attend the Central New York Summit evening session from 6 to 8 p.m., at SUNY ESF Gateway Center Building, 1 Forestry Drive, Syracuse, NY 13210. Free parking available in all ESF designated lots

Affected Waterbodies in Central New York

Cayuga Lake is over 42,000 acres located in Cayuga, Cortland, Tompkins and Seneca counties, and serves as a source of drinking water to over 40,000 people. With its surrounding communities representing rural, suburban and urban characters it is subject to many influences of pollution sources including wastewater treatment plants, septic systems and fertilizer runoff from farms and homes. Cayuga Lake had 61 beach closure days in 2017 and 24 weeks with HABs since 2012.

Owasco Lake is a nearly 6,800-acre lake in Cayuga, Tompkins and Onondaga counties. It is the water supply for over 46,000 people in and around the City of Auburn and the Town of Owasco. It has seven regulated swimming beaches and is influenced by invasive species including Eurasian watermilfoil, zebra and quagga mussels and Asian clam.

Skaneateles Lake is an 8,700-acre lake that provides unfiltered water to over 200,000 Central New Yorkers through the Syracuse water supply system as well as other local systems. Skaneateles Lake is also used for swimming, boating, fishing and other recreation. Over 1,400 homeowners obtain their drinking water directly from this lake. A large lake-wide HAB occurred in 2017. This is the first confirmed HAB on Skaneateles lake since the DEC HAB program was created.

Upcoming HABs Summits

Twelve lakes vulnerable to HABs and which represent a wide range of conditions and affected uses were prioritized for this comprehensive planning process in the first year of this new initiative. Lessons learned from studying the 12 priority lakes will be applied to waterbodies across the state.

At the HABs summits, nation-leading experts will work with local steering committees to begin development of tailored action plans to address the causes of algal blooms in the twelve priority waterbodies across the state. The action plans developed for each waterbody will be used to guide the development and implementation of priority projects, including new monitoring and treatment technologies. The action plans will be complete by the end of May and the lessons learned through these action plans will be applied to other impacted waterbodies.

Each of the four summits include an evening session that is open to the public where background information about harmful algal blooms will be provided. The sessions will include talks by experts, a panel discussion and an opportunity for local residents to share recommendations and ideas. The media are encouraged to attend the evening public sessions.

Two remaining summits:

North Country

Tuesday, March 20 from 6 - 8 p.m.

Best Western Ticonderoga

260 Burgoyne Road, Ticonderoga, NY 12883

Western New York

Monday, March 26 from 6 - 8 p.m.

R. Thomas Flynn Campus Center, SUNY Monroe Community College, the Forum

1000 East Henrietta Road, Rochester, New York 14623

Free parking in campus lots N and M

The evening sessions will also be available live online. Visit Livestream to watch these events in real time.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "At Governor Cuomo's direction, DEC scientists and water quality experts are actively investigating the causes of algal blooms in Central New York and are pioneering cutting-edge solutions to reduce these blooms and the threat they pose to drinking water and recreation. DEC is working with national experts, our state agency partners, and local leaders to prioritize actions necessary to protect New York's vital water resources."

Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said "Last year's enhanced monitoring and testing protocol for harmful algal blooms in Central New York's water supplies enabled us to stay ahead of this emerging public health threat and ensure that area drinking water sources remain protected. Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, we're adding the next critical piece of the state's comprehensive response to implement best practices on the priority lakes of Skaneateles, Owasco, and Cayuga to mitigate and prevent future blooms in this region."

State Agriculture & Markets Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, "The Department is pleased to join DEC and DOH at this summit and engage in the work needed to address these threats to our environment and drinking water. Thanks to the Governor's forward thinking approach, the actions we as a State take now to combat harmful algal blooms will ensure the preservation of one of our most precious resources--our lakes and waterways--for years to come."

Senator Tom O'Mara, Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, said, "It is undeniable that we must take algal blooms seriously and I thank Governor Cuomo and NYS DEC for this aggressive response to this environmental crisis. With a deeper understanding of the scope of blooms and the risk that they pose to both lives and the environment, we will be much better prepared to effectively eliminate this threat to our lakes and ensure that further damage is minimized."

Assemblymember Steve Englebright, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation, said, "New York's lakes and clean water resources play a critical role in our communities, serving as a source of drinking water and a place of recreation and tourism. I want to thank the Governor for bringing local communities together with experts on harmful algal blooms to develop action plans to address one of the most devastating problems facing our surface water resources."

Senator David. J. Valesky said, "When our communities are faced with adversity, we can count on the Governor and state agency experts to be there to provide the help our residents need. I am proud to support this comprehensive initiative, as industry experts work to devise a plan that will help clean our lakes and provide quality drinking water for families for generations to come."

Assemblymember William B. Magnarelli said, "Harmful algal blooms are devastating to our health, our environment, and our economy. The consequences of these blooms, if left untouched, are dire and we must take immediate action to stop and ultimately reverse the damage that has been done. Governor Cuomo has understood from the very beginning how terrible these blooms are and I am confident that with the resources provided by the state, New Yorkers will once again have access to quality drinking water they deserve."

Assemblymember Barbara Lifton said, "I am proud to work with Governor Cuomo and members of the legislature to provide critical resources and funding needed to clean our precious waterbodies. Residents and visitors deserve safe, quality drinking water, and through the Harmful Algal Blooms summit, this expert panel will brainstorm solutions that will help remedy this awful algal bloom intrusion. I applaud our state agencies for staying on top of this issue and working with local communities to clean our lakes."

Assemblymember Pamela J. Hunter said, "With so much still unknown about harmful algal blooms, it is critical that we learn quickly how best to eliminate these blooms and prevent them from forming in the future. The swift decision to launch these summits and engage industry experts was exactly what we needed to take our first step toward combating this crisis. I thank Governor Cuomo for prioritizing the safety of our community and those impacted by harmful algal blooms all across the state."

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney said, "Onondaga County is looking forward to working with Governor Cuomo, and our local and regional partners, to protect drinking water for residents in and around Onondaga County, and across the rest of the state. Ensuring access to clean water is our top priority and I am confident this summit's panel of experts will help us establish a roadmap to protect our natural resources for years to come."

Cayuga County Legislature Chair Patrick Mahunik, "Harmful algal blooms pose a serious threat to our environment, and I thank Governor Cuomo for taking this growing crisis seriously. I am confident that through our work together, we will develop a strategic solution to improve our water quality and return our lakes to their healthy and natural beauty."

Cortland County Legislature Chair Charles Sudbrink said, "It is unfortunate that our beautiful lakes have been compromised by harmful algal blooms, but under the Governor's leadership and working with these renowned experts, we look forward to recommendations that will help protect our community's drinking water. I am confident that with the state's resources and support, our lakes will be pure once again."

Auburn Mayor Mike Quill said, "Our lakes provide critical drinking water, world-class recreational opportunities, and some of the most beautiful views around. I applaud Governor Cuomo for working together with our local officials and national experts to combat the threat of harmful algal blooms and deliver a comprehensive plan that will deliver quality water for both residents and visitors."

Owasco Town Supervisor Ed Wagner said, "I support the Governor's comprehensive initiative to combat harmful algal blooms that have intruded on our precious waterbodies. These natural treasures must be protected, and I look forward to the panel's recommendations that will help reduce this hazard and ensure safe water for affected communities."

Governor Cuomo's Harmful Algal Blooms program builds on New York's $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act investments in clean water infrastructure and water quality protection. The Harmful Algal Blooms initiative is supported with funds from both the Clean Water Infrastructure Act and the $300 million Environmental Protection Fund. Through the Governor's leadership, New York has developed the most comprehensive HABs outreach and monitoring programs in the country, led by DEC sampling of ambient waters across the state and DOH sampling at regulated beaches and public water systems.


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