Governor Touts Lake Agawam Algae Solution

Pictured Above: Workers prepare a mobile harvester for collecting algae from Lake Agawam

After years of increasing concentrations of toxic blue-green algae, which can be toxic to fish and people, Southampton Village and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation employed a new ‘mobile harvester’ to remove the algae from the water as a pilot project for two weeks in early October.

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo was in town Oct. 3 for the unveiling of the project, which is part of the governor’s $82 million statewide program to combat harmful algae blooms.

“Safeguarding New York’s water quality is a top priority, and we are providing direct assistance to communities to swiftly and effectively respond to harmful algal blooms,” said Mr. Cuomo at the unveiling. “We are deploying new and innovative tools like the HABs harvester to address the algal blooms in Agawam Lake, and will continue exploring the latest technology to eliminate these blooms altogether and keep waterbodies around the state clean and safe. If this pilot works, then we will bring it up to scale and apply it across the state wherever possible.”

The mobile algae harvester is designed to separate algae and other substances from the water and return the resulting filtered and improved water to the lake to abate the harmful algae bloom. The algae harvester uses technology that is often employed in drinking water plants.

Agawam Lake, which abuts Agawam Park in the center of Southampton Village, has been suffering from harmful algae blooms each year since at least 2013. This algae harvester, which has been used successfully in other states, is being piloted in New York to see if it will help remove algae here. If successful, the program is expected to be used throughout the state.

The algae harvester was temporarily installed at Agawam Lake Park, where it was operational for two weeks while the DEC sampled and monitored the lake for changes. 

Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at the Oct. 3 unveiling.

“Waterways throughout our region are at a critical state and improvements to Lake Agawam are essential to Southampton Village’s economy and quality of life,” said Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, whose district includes Southampton Village. “Algal blooms in this lake, the centerpiece of Southampton Village, have registered thousands of times higher than the standard for blue-green pigment set by the DEC. These toxins are a public health and safety risk to the surrounding community and negatively impacting our tourism-based economy. I fully support this investment in improving the conditions of Lake Agawam with new technologies.”

When it comes to harmful algae blooms (HABs], the DEC encourages New Yorkers to “KNOW IT, AVOID IT, REPORT IT.” HABs vary in appearance from scattered green dots in the water, to long, linear green streaks, pea soup or spilled green paint, to blue-green or white coloration. People, pets and livestock should avoid contact with water that is discolored or has algal scums on the surface. If members of the public suspect a HAB, report it through the NYHABs online reporting form available on the DEC’s website. Symptoms or health concerns related to HABs should be reported to DOH at [email protected].

While the exact cause of HABs is not fully understood, HABs usually occur in waters high in phosphorus and/or nitrogen. New York State has many programs and activities to reduce phosphorus and nitrogen from entering the water from surrounding lands, including stormwater permitting programs, funding for water quality improvement projects, and a nutrient law that restricts the use of phosphorus lawn fertilizer.

Beth Young

Beth Young

Beth Young built her first boat out of driftwood tied together with phragmites behind her family’s apartment above the old Mill Creek Inn in Southold. Nowadays, she spends most of her time kayaking, learning about shellfish, writing newspaper stories, trying to sail a Sunfish, and watching the way the bay changes from day to day. You can send her a message at [email protected]

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