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Archival photograph of blue green algae from the Vermont Department of Health
Archival photograph of blue green algae from the Vermont Department of Health

Toxic blue green algae plagues Lake Champlain

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Health officials in New York and Vermont say there have already been at least two outbreaks of toxic blue-green algae on Lake Champlain. The first was reported last week near the Crown Point bridge. The second, reported Tuesday, forced closure of the public beaches in Port Henry. There have also been reports of outbreaks near Burlington and Missisquoi Bay. Brian Mann has details.

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Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

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Blue green algae is a dangerous form of cyanobacteria that has been sparked in recent years by high levels of pollution in Lake Champlain. It’s more likely to break out during spells of hot, dry weather. Volunteer monitors organized by the Lake Champlain Committee have been watching the lake, looking for the tell-tale scum that forms on the water surface. Last week, members of the public sent photographs of an outbreak near the Crown Point bridge to Vermont’s health department 

State officials in Vermont and New York then put lakeshore communities on alert for other outbreaks. On Tuesday, according to the Plattsburgh Press-Republican, state health officials in New York closed two public beaches in the Port Henry-Moriah area. The newspaper reported that one of the swimming areas had been relocated to Bulwagga Bay nearby, an area apparently free of the algae. Local officials say they hope to reopen all beaches in the Moriah-Port Henry area as early as tomorrow.

Meanwhile, New York state also issued a warning against eating fish caught in areas with visible blooms of blue-green algae. People exposed to bacteria face possible risks of nausea, vomiting, skin irritation, allergic reactions and harm to the liver and nervous system. Five cases were reported statewide in New York in 2011 and none so far in 2012, according to the Health Department. 


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