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Toxics Targeting says Cayuga Lake had most HABs reports this year


SENECA FALLS — Cayuga Lake set a state record with 103 reports of Harmful Algal Blooms in 2019.

That’s the conclusion of Toxics Targeting Inc., an environmental database firm in Ithaca, which reviewed data from 192 waterbodies across the state that reported HABs this year.

Walter Hang, president of Toxics Targeting, said at a Thursday press conference that the number of water bodies reporting HABs in the water was 173 in 2018.

“State and federal authorities have failed since 1998 to halt this historic lake’s massive algal, aquatic weed and turbidity pollution hazards, even though it is included on the National Registry of Impaired Waters and requires a total maximum daily load comprehensive watershed clean up plan as a high priority since 2004,” Hang said in a news release.

Cayuga Lake is the drinking water source for some 40,000 people in Seneca Falls, Ithaca, Aurora, Union Springs and Cayuga.

“Massive blooms of cyanobacteria reported all over New York pose major public healthy and environmental hazards because they release microcystins that can cause illness and death when consumed in drinking water or due to direct exposure,” Hang said.

He said Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s HABs cleanup program is a failure because HABs in 2019 were “worse than ever” across the state. “Most troubling is that 59 waterbodies in New York reported HABs for the first time this year,” Hang said.

Last year, Cuomo launched a program to clean up HABs in 12 top priority waterbodies, including Cayuga Lake.

Hang said he’s critical of the governor’s program because it does not adopt comprehensive total maximum daily load watershed cleanup plans for all HABs-impaired waterbodies, as requested by a statewide coalition of government officials, concerned property owners, environmental groups and activists all over the state. Hang also said the state needs to enforce the U.S. Clean Water Act.