By COLIN KYLER
Officials continue to study a bloom of hazardous blue-green algae in the Allegheny Reservoir.
Steve Lauser, resource manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Kinzua Dam, said on Monday they are in the process of scheduling a biologist for another round of testing. Back on Sept. 1, tests were conducted at three different sites in the New York portion of the reservoir: the access at Friends boat launch in Allegany State Park along the east shoreline, along the Sawmill Run bank and near Onoville Marina.
The Friends site showed the highest level. Park personnel there had first noted the algae while closing for the season last week, Lauser said, and their discovery prompted the testing.
"Incidents of algae concentration are highest in the shallower areas of the reservoir, like the Friends boat launch," Lauser said. "In deeper water towards Pennsylvania, there's still a presence of algae, but it's not in the toxic levels."
When the water gets deeper, Lauser said, the algae dissipates. Part of algae growth is based on water temperature and other algae is growing besides the blue-green variety although they do not pose the same toxicity concerns.
Blue-green algae is native to the area, Lauser said, and shows up in different locations depending on the time of the season. It can also migrate as it moves with the wind and wave action.
When the algae poses a public health concern, the Corps of Engineers makes recommendations for people not to enter the waters of higher concentration. Since before Labor Day, Lauser said, the Friends boat launch has been closed mostly because the docks have been removed and the ramps are not usable below certain water levels.
"Folks at Allegany State Park have signs posted at access points to let people who may be swimming in that water know about the issue," Lauser said. "We hope people will avoid it just from the look of what can be described as 'green slime,' but we also advise them not to enter the waters."
This past summer provided an extreme case of the right conditions for algae growth. Both shallow water levels and high air and water temperatures propagated growth, Lauser said, more than there would normally be.
Although workers will continue to monitor the algae and check the toxicity level, Lauser said he expects growth to drop off as temperatures drop further into autumn. By putting a boat in the launch ramp, people have less contact with algae than they do when swimming.
Pets also have a higher possibility of ingesting toxins while in the water. Like people, Lauser said, they may have respiratory sensitivities to the algae.
According to Lauser, the algae likely arrived through Quaker Lake, which flows into the reservoir. Its point of entrance was near the first place that high concentration was noticed.
Dan Jones, public affairs chief for the Corps of Engineers, said they haven't received any reports yet of people or pets getting sick. Since the algae affects the food sources for fish, wildlife could be negatively impacted.
In addition to posting signs, the Corps is notifying the media and working with the New York State Department of Health. The goal is to make the public aware of the situation, Jones said, and people will be informed when there are new developments.