Chautauqua Lake, NY. Image: Doug Conroe, Chautauqua Lake Association.
Harmful algal blooms, or HABs, have been of significant concern for many states across the US and globally. HABs have occurred more frequently over the past few years due to a range of factors (e.g., invasive species, in-lake dynamics, nutrient pollution and climate change), where HABs are a local and global threat to economic, ecological and human health. Impacts include threats to pets and livestock, making water undrinkable, and economic losses tied to a reduction in recreational activities and in losses of tourism.
Ramboll expert Dr. Zach Smith has performed extensive research in the area of HABs and recently published a paper in the academic journal Toxins focused on the Chautauqua Lake region in southwestern New York State. Specifically, the paper looks at the state-of-the-lake related to HABs over the last few years for a client project, including the physical environmental factors related to the occurrence of cyanobacterial liver and neurotoxins in the lake.
In a broader context, the paper examines alternative approaches to management where there is an overreliance on reducing nutrient influx at the expense of other approaches. In this particular case study, Ramboll recommended alternatives such as fostering aquatic plant communities that can compete with HABs for light as well as nutrients.
Zach is a scientist at Ramboll with expertise in the production and distribution of cyanobacterial neurotoxins throughout New York’s freshwater lakes. In addition to Chautauqua Lake, Zach is working on additional publications focused on a suite of under-studied neurotoxins that may be of significant concern. Due to the lack of toxicological data on chronic exposure to these toxins, risks to humans remain unclear, but drinking water facilities may soon be asked to treat and remove these toxins prior to distributing water to their communities.