The Final report for the 2014 Cyanobacteria Monitoring Program on Lakes Champlain, Carmi, Elmore, Iroquois and Memphremagog is now available for download from the Watershed Management Division – http://www.watershedmanagement.vt.gov/lakes/docs/lp_Cyanobacteria2014.pdf. This program has been active for more than 10 years on Lake Champlain and since 2012 on a limited number of inland lakes. It is designed to provide information on the abundance of cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae) to assist public health officials responsible for recreation safety. The program’s success is built on an effective partnership between the VT DEC, the VT Department of Health (VDH), the Lake Champlain Committee (LCC) and the Lake Champlain Basin Program. More than 1400 reports from 115 locations on Lake Champlain and the four inland lakes were provided during 2014 by state staff, LCC staff and citizen monitors trained by the LCC.
Last year’s data continued to show that potentially toxic cyanobacteria, though commonly found throughout Champlain and Vermont’s inland lakes, are usually at levels safe for recreation. More than 90% of last year’s reports documented generally safe conditions between June and late September. That is not to say that there were no algae blooms in 2014. Missisquoi Bay, the St. Albans Bay area, and Lake Carmi all had extensive and long-lived blooms. Low levels of one cyanobacteria toxin were detected on Champlain, Carmi, and Elmore at times over the summer, but were well below VDH guidelines for recreation. No reports of human or animal illness were received.
LCC training sessions have been held over the last several weeks and 2015 monitoring will be fully underway by late June. Thanks to funding from the VDH and training by the LCC, citizen monitors will be reporting from additional sites on Lakes Carmi, Iroquois and Memphremagog. Monitoring results will be posted on the VDH’s Algae Tracking Map, where you can see current and past 2015 reports for each site.
Lake Champlain also serves as a drinking water source for thousands of Vermonters. EPA recently released guidelines for several cyanobacteria toxins that have been used to update VDH recommendations for drinking water safety. This summer, Champlain drinking water facility operators will be working with the DEC’s Drinking Water and Groundwater Protection Division and the VDH to routinely monitor their water for these cyanobacteria toxins.
Data from monitoring activities are used by public health authorities, beach managers and water providers to help us avoid existing cyanobacteria blooms as we spend time on our lakes and drink their water now. At the same time, we are taking action on the ground to prevent blooms from occurring in the future. Keeping nutrients and sediments out of our waters is key to controlling algae blooms. With the passage of H.35 this spring, Vermont has strengthened its commitment to clean water and healthy lakes. The Watershed Management Division will be responsible for getting many of these new initiatives underway in the coming months.