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Harmful algae in Albany reservoir, Firm says it is statewide problem


WESTERLO -- Environmental database company Toxics Targeting is blaming a statewide problem with toxic algae on the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Harmful algal blooms are affecting an increasing number of water sources in New York.

That includes the Basic Creek Reservoir in Westerlo. It is an alternative source of the Albany's drinking water.

The algae lets off toxins that can cause Vomiting, Diarrhea, and Blistering

"These are neurotoxins, they're very toxic even at extraordinarily low levels," said Walter Hang, Toxics Targeting.

The good news for Albany, is the city is only drawing water from its main source, the Alcove Reservoir. Albany Water Commissioner Joe Coffey says Albany's water is safe to drink. Coffey says the city only draws from Basic Creek Reservoir when water levels are lower, but it has been a very wet year.

Not all cities can say the same. Syracuse, Rochester, and Auburn are dealing with problems in their water sources because of harmful algae. Toxics Targeting is blaming the DEC for a statewide problem.

"A total lack of enforcement and now we are seeing drinking water contamination on a level that's unprecedented in our state's history," said Hang.

Harmful algal blooms form in warm weather from too much phosphorus or other nutrients. That can be from fertilizer runoff or other dumping.

DEC says Algal blooms are hard to treat. If a situation gets too bad, carbon filtering is the preferred method.

The plan now for Basic Creek Reservoir is to let the algae die off with cold weather.

"Weather patterns are promoting these blooms right now, and we don't expect it to dissipate until I gets cooler or some weather patterns change," said Dr. Jacqueline Lendrum, DEC Division of Water,

We asked the DEC if this burst of blooms is from a lack of enforcing clean water laws.

"We are always enforcing our laws, we have environmental conservation officers, we have water engineers out and we're looking at the threats and problems in these water bodies," said Sean Mahar, DEC Press Office.

Coffey says there have been blooms before in Basic Creek Reservoir. He says it's much smaller than Alcove and much more nutrient rich.

Coffey says the 13 billion gallons of water in Alcove is of high quality.