Courthouse Gallery Virtual Exhibition
Algal Blooms in Lake George
The Natural Beauty of Algae… and Its Warning
[a view from under the surface of Lake George]
This June the Lake George Arts Project’s Courthouse Gallery had planned a one-week exhibition featuring Kathy Bozony’s work documenting and researching the algal blooms in Lake George. We were unable to host a reception for the exhibition due to the current Covid-19 Public Health Emergency, but we have created an online gallery here, and a link to Kathy’s presentation HERE.
Kathy Bozony has been documenting algal blooms in Lake George for over 10 years. She has taken thousands of underwater photographs and shared them with the Lake communities. The importance of sharing these photographs has been a dedicated undertaking, as the prevalence of excess algae in Lake George is not a given, but an anomaly for this type of lake. It is a fact that algae naturally occur in all waterbodies, but excessive algae growth does indicate a problem, and we should be concerned.
Kathy sent us this statement about her research:
Can we SAVE the QUEEN of American Lakes?
Lake George is an oligotrophic lake, defined as a waterbody with clear, deep water and little organic productivity (minimal plants and algae growth).
Lake George was classified in the 1940’s as Class AA-Special (AA-S)fresh surface water. Five lakes in New York State have this AA-S designation, indicating best usage as a source of drinking water, swimming,recreationand fishing. This ‘best use’ classification determines water quality standards that specify a maximum amount of a pollutant that can be present in a waterbody. No reclassification of water quality has occurred since.
But what has changed? Should we be concerned?
Land use and development surrounding Lake George is causing what you see in these photos, excessive algae growth. Arapid increase in a population of algae (phytoplankton present in water) is defined as an algal bloom, which should not be visible in an oligotrophic lake.
A waterbody naturally ages over thousands of years. Accelerated aging (what we are witnessing in Lake George within our lifetime), is a consequence of land use and development decisions. These choices have increased water quality degradation and possible changes in lake classification, from oligotrophic to mesotrophic (or eutrophic, which is characterized by high nutrient loads that cause a significant increase in plant and algae growth, as well as reduced water clarity and oxygen depletion). ‘Cultural eutrophication’ is a term used to define an expedited aging of a waterbody caused by human activity.
Are the algal blooms that have been documented in Lake George the ‘Canary in the Coal Mine’that demands our immediate attention? How can we not recognize that the water quality changes that we are witnessing are so obvious? That alone should prompt actionto preserve this nationally recognized resource that we are privileged to enjoy, in all its capacity.
The nutrients and pollutants that are impacting Lake George’s water quality flow into the lake from unmanaged stormwater, inadequately treated wastewater (which includes onsite septic systems and municipal wastewater treatment plants), fertilizer and pesticide use, winter road salt and other pollutants within the watershed. With the changes in the Lake’s water quality that we have all witnessed within the past 20+ years, we can only hope that municipalities and towns within the Lake George Park begin to make changes in their regulations and enforcement. In addition to municipal responsibility, residents, businesses (including motels), lake visitors and guests must act on the importance of conscientious lake preservation.
Microscopic analysis of the algae sampled from the lake within the past 10 years has identified many varieties of algae genus, including algae that grows in sewage treatment plants. The awareness of the genus of algae present in Lake George that identify ‘probable organic pollution’ indicates that there are outdated, poorly designed and/or failing septic systems on the lands surrounding the lake. This needs to be addressed.
It’s up to you…
Preserving Lake George water quality is certainly more important than a green, weed free lawn; an unobstructed view of the lake if it means that all trees and vegetation are removed from the property and shoreline for that view; and living with an antiquated, poorly designed, inadequately maintained or failing septic system.