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LCC hosts meeting about blue-green algae blooms

— A young girl swims near an algae bloom, a dangerous organism that lurks in the waters of Lake Champlain.

The Lake Champlain Committee met with the public June 12 at the Essex Town Hall to discuss just this scenario, and brace for another summer of blue-green algae blooms in Lake Champlain.

“We want people to be able to understand the issues affecting lake health and to play an active role in protecting this water body,” said Lori Fisher, executive director of LCC. “We feel that an indicated, engaged citizen rate is really key.”

The presentation, facilitated by Staff Scientist Mike Winslow, lasted about an hour and provided a background on blue-green algae, guidance on how to differentiate it from other lake phenomena, and instructions for assessing water conditions, along with giving training to people who wanted to become LCC monitors.

“We do the training and the information sessions to ensure that the citizens, the people who live, work and visit this region are informed about some of the issues,” Fisher said.

LCC blue-green algae monitors provide weekly observations about water quality from designated locations around the lake from mid-June to February.

“It’s unlike anything you’d ever see in nature,” Winslow said. “But you won’t see it all the time with blooms.”

For their observations, they look for a bloom, a fuzzy green pin-head size ball, in the water, which often looks like thick pea soup with possible patches of turquoise blue as cells break down and release their pigments.

These blooms occur mostly in warm, shallow waters. Deep, cold water locations are less likely to support the blooms.

However, because of warmer water temperatures associated with climate change and extensive nutrient loading from storms and flooding, blooms appear in the broader area of the lake now.

“There’s a lot we don’t know about these organisms, but we do know that if they’re going to show up, it’s likely going to be during that hot, calm weather period,” Winslow said, adding later on that winds and waves may cause them to accumulate along shorelines or in protected areas, while cool and rainy days may disrupt them.

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