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NYS launches new 'NYHABS' online notification & reporting system for harmful algal blooms


Wed, Jun 5th 2019 11:45 am

As temperatures rise, DEC, DOH encourage New Yorkers to learn about HABs

The New York state departments of Environmental Conservation and Health encouraged New Yorkers to learn about harmful algal blooms, or “HABs,” as temperatures rise and the 2019 HABs notification season starts.

In addition, New York state launched a new online HABs map and reporting system for the public. Dubbed “NYHABS,” the reporting system features an interactive map that is updated daily with reports of HABs, as well as a new public reporting form.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “The state’s new notification system allows New Yorkers to be more informed than ever before about the location of HABs so they can better protect themselves, their families, and their pets. Working closely with our state and local partners, and with support from Gov. Cuomo’s $65 million HABs Initiative, DEC is aggressively combatting HABs and working to reduce or eliminate these blooms from our waters.”

DOH Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “New York has a long history of protecting our recreational waterways and drinking water from the threat of harmful algal blooms. Unfortunately, warmer weather makes it necessary to plan for blooms that are increasing in frequency and location. This new notification and reporting system raises public awareness of the threat that HABs pose and enhances our robust monitoring and testing protocol.”

The NYHABS reporting system allows both the public and trained algal bloom samplers to send reports of HABs to DEC electronically via a simple, user- and mobile phone-friendly form. These reports, once evaluated by DEC and DOH, are posted to the NYHABS page.

When it comes to HABs, DEC encourages New Yorkers to “KNOW IT, AVOID IT, REPORT IT.”

KNOW 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.

AVOID IT – People, pets and livestock should avoid contact with water that is discolored or has algal scums on the surface.

REPORT IT – If members of the public suspect a HAB, report it through the NYHABs online reporting form available on DEC’s website. Symptoms or health concerns related to HABs should be reported to DOH at [email protected]

Most algae blooms are harmless. However, exposure to toxins and other substances from certain HABs can make people and animals sick. The increasing frequency and duration of HABs also threatens water quality and recreational use of waterbodies essential to ecosystem health and statewide tourism.

HABs have been detected in nearly 400 water bodies since 2012. To address HABs, DEC works with DOH, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and other state and local partners. DEC and the DOH continue to lead the most comprehensive HABs monitoring and reporting program in the nation. Hundreds of waterbodies are monitored annually by DEC, DOH, State Parks, academic institutions, and volunteer monitoring partnerships. Additional public health protections are provided by DOH oversight of regulated beaches and public water systems.

At Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s direction, DEC and DOH are leading a multi-agency, statewide, $65 million initiative to aggressively combat HABs and protect drinking water quality and the economy. In 2018, four summits brought together national, state and local experts to discuss how to reduce the frequency of these blooms. The summits drove the creation of action plans for 12 priority lakes that will undergo intensive evaluation and advanced technology pilots that can be applied to waterbodies across the state.

While the exact cause of HABs is not fully understood, HABs usually occur in waters high in phosphorus and/or nitrogen. New York 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.

The state’s HABs program works with partners to identify, track and report HABs throughout the state, and communicate health risks to the public. This spring and summer, DEC will again include a link to the HAB notifications page on “MakingWaves.” To sign up for “MakingWaves,” visit DEC’s website and enter an email address in the blue “DEC Delivers” box.

For more information about HABs, including bloom notifications, which are updated daily from late spring through fall, visit DEC’s HABs webpage. The HABs brochure and program guide, which includes information and links to resources regarding bloom prevention, management and control, can also be downloaded from the DEC website. Click here for information on DOH’s blue-green algae and health information, “KNOW IT, AVOID IT, REPORT IT.”

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