You are here

Toxins in Auburn raw water at highest level this year, treatment system still working


Michele Wunderlich, of the Cayuga County Water Quality Management Agency, gives a presentation at Wednesday's meeting of the Owasco Watershed Lake Association. OWLA is anticipating the results of a months-long study exploring the possible effects of in-lake technology on harmful algal blooms.
Ryan Franklin - The Citizen

FLEMING — Toxins have again been detected in the raw water supplying the city of Auburn's water treatment plant — the highest level this season — but the drinking water supply remains safe, according to the Cayuga County Health Department.

The department said in a release that results from samples taken Tuesday showed 1.2 micrograms per liter of microcytstins, a toxin associated with the cyanobacteria that form harmful algal blooms, in the raw, untreated water entering the plant from Owasco Lake.

No toxins were detected in the drinking water that had gone through the plant's treatment process, including an activated carbon filtration system.

"Although this was the highest detection in the raw water so far this season, the treatment system at the city of Auburn continues to successfully remove the toxins," Cayuga County Public Health Director Kathleen Cuddy said in the release.

Samples taken from both the raw and treated water at the town of Owasco's filtration plant, which intakes water from a different location than Auburn, were both clear after detecting toxins on Monday.

The Auburn plant provides drinking water to residents in Auburn, the towns of Aurelius, Fleming Water District 6, Throop, Mentz, Brutus, Montezuma, Sennett, Springport Water District 2 and the villages of Port Byron, Weedsport and Cayuga.

Owasco's plant provides water to the town of Owasco as well as Fleming Water District 1.

The Onondaga County Health Department also reported that toxin levels of 0.52 micrograms per liter were detected in the water entering one of two intake pipes on Skaneateles Lake but had dissipated before reaching the gatehouse.

In other news:

The Owasco Watershed Lake Association is awaiting the findings from a summer-long scientific study seeking to determine any possible effects of two types of technology in mitigating HABs.

Led by Dr. John Halfman, of the Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart & William Smith colleges, the project placed several ultrasound-producing buoys and aerators at several locations throughout Owasco Lake.

Beginning in late July and concluding at the end of September, it's too early to determine what effect, if any, the technology had in preventing or disrupting HABs, OWLA board member Peter Rogers said.

With the sampling and monitoring portion of the project finished, Halfman most now compile the data gathered and finalize reports.

At previous meetings, Rogers and other OWLA members said that they were almost unfortunate to be lucky, as the HAB season had been relatively tame until recently, making them question how much useful data would be.

In any case, Rogers said the group would like to attempt a second year of the project in 2019, but would have to find funding sources.