Typically, during the summertime, I make it to “dog island” a couple of times a week, to take the dogs for a walk and a swim. Now that the waters are warming up, I’m being precautious about potential Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) spottings, so that the dogs don’t get sick. The problem is, sometimes I forget to check the Ellicott Creek Bark Park’s website, to see if there are any notifications, warnings, or alerts. I’ve been told that Friends of Ellicott posts advisories pertaining to the algal blooms (fueled by nutrient pollution), but I’ve yet to see anything, so I’m not sure about this system of preparedness.
One thing that I did recently learn is that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) posts NYHABS, which is a Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Notification page that provides people with up-to-date information (based on community reports) on freshwater HABs in New York State. I found this site to be easy-to-use, informative, and super handy. By clicking on a couple of hotspots on the map, I was able to see the places that I might want to avoid (depending on the date logged – there were no sightings at Ellicott Creek when I last checked). The other nice thing about this HAB map is that it’s all concentrated at one place via this tracker, with information provided by citizens who frequent the sites.
In the future, when heading out to any nearby slow-moving fresh water sources that are notorious for having algal blooms (especially when it’s hot out), I will be sure to reference this HAB resource. Also, if you spot any HABs around WNY, be sure to submit a report to NYHABS.
From the DEC:
If you see a HAB, please use the reporting form to submit a report to NYHABS. Because waterbodies may have HABs that have not been reported to DEC, we recommend avoiding contact with floating mats, scums and discolored water.
If you, your family, or pet have been in contact with a HAB, please rinse with clean water and report any symptoms to your local health department.
Consider visiting a healthcare provider if you, your family, or your animals are experiencing symptoms related to blue-green harmful algal blooms. Symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting; skin, eye, or throat irritation; and allergic reactions or breathing difficulties.
Lead image courtesy DEC