Cyanobacteria*

  • What are cyanobacteria?
    Cyanobacteria, also called blue-green algae, are microscopic organisms found naturally in all types of water. These
    single-celled organisms live in fresh, brackish (combined salt and fresh water), and marine water. These organisms
    use sunlight to make their own food. In warm, nutrient-rich (high in phosphorus and nitrogen) environments,
    cyanobacteria can multiply quickly, creating blooms that spread across the water’s surface. The blooms might become
    visible.

How are cyanobacteria blooms formed?
Cyanobacteria blooms form when cyanobacteria, which are normally found in the water, start to multiply very quickly.
Blooms can form in warm, slow-moving waters that are rich in nutrients from sources such as fertilizer runoff or septic
tank overflows. Cyanobacteria blooms need nutrients to survive. The blooms can form at any time, but most often form
in late summer or early fall.

Why are some cyanbacteria blooms harmful?
Cyanobacteria blooms that harm people, animals, or the environment are called cyanobacteria harmful algal blooms.
Harmful cyanobacteria blooms may affect people, animals, or the environment by:
— blocking the sunlight that other organisms need to live. Cyanobacteria blooms can steal the oxygen and nutrients
— other organisms need to live.
making toxins, called cyanotoxins. Cyanotoxins are among the most powerful natural poisons known. They can make people, their pets, and other animals sick. Unfortunately, there are no remedies to counteract the effects.
— You cannot tell if a bloom has toxins by looking at it.

* information taken from the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/habs/pdf/cyanobacteria_faq.pdf – National Center for Environmental Health, Division of Environmental Health and Health Hazards

 Lake Morey Alum Treatment

to mitigate Cyanobacteria

 

The Town of Fairlee has asked the LMPA to update our members as to the status of the Alum treatment for Lake Morey. They have informed us that we are on track for the treatment in late Spring/early Summer 2024. 

A May timeline was provided by Peter LaFlamme, Director of the DEC ANR Watershed Agency. Pursuant to a meeting on October 17, 2023 which the Town and our contractor, Solitude, attended with the State agencies, the State confirmed that the Town is current with the ANR and the Clean Water Board on all permitting and funding paths. The ANR is working to continue its collaboration between Solitude and the Agency to resolve any outstanding needs in order to allow the Town of Fairlee to meet State and Federal EPA standards for the treatment in May.

Our Town Administrator, Ryan Lockwood, and Tad Nunez, are coordinating efforts with ANR, the Clean Water board and Solitude to move these processes forward and the expectation is that the Town will continue to have conversations with Amy at the Wastewater Division before the 30-day public hearing process which can be expected to happen in the March/April timeframe.

link to: Town of Fairlee Alum Treatment page

At the 2023 Annual Meeting, the Town of Fairlee Selectboard presented a report:

 CYANOBACTERIA, ALUM AND LAKE MOREY 

The Town of Fairlee, Lake Morey Commission, and Solitude Lake Management have an effective partnership with Vermont’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), in part due to the persistent attention of Lakes and Ponds Manager Oliver Pierson. The Lakes and Ponds program believes that Lake Morey is eligible for an alum treatment. From a permitting perspective, an alum treatment in early summer 2024 is feasible based on recent conversations with DEC Lakes and Ponds. The accelerated funding and Solitude’s rapid completion of the Lake Morey Sediment Study (a.k.a. alum feasibility study) has significantly shortened the timeline. DEC Lakes and Ponds appreciates Lake Morey and Solitude as key sources of valuable scientific data.

Part of what has been time consuming is Vermont’s revision of the State Environmental Review Process (SERP).

  • The accelerated funding and Solitude’s rapid completion of the Lake Morey Sediment Study (a.k.a. alum feasibility study) has significantly shortened the timeline. DEC Lakes and Ponds appreciates Solitude as a key source of valuable scientific data.
  • Fairlee applied for and was accepted as a Priority Project for Emerging Contaminants by the Clean Water Board, one of only two projects in the state. (The line item from the Draft Intended Use Plan (IUP): Fairlee, Lake Morey Alum Treatment Project, 68 NPS-H 0 0, $790,000, EC)
  • At this point, there appears to be just under $1M available in Emerging Contaminants Grant funding, which would be a 100% forgivable loan.
  • The revised SERP is currently in internal review, after which a duly warned public meeting will be held on the Draft IUP which will then go out for 30-day public comment.
  • Once accepted, the revised SERP is subject to US EPA approval.
What can LMPA members do to facilitate the process once the Draft IUP is accepted?
 
Submit comments during the 30-day public comment period. Contact information TBD.
 
Key points in your comments should include:
 
  • Cyanobacteria is a known problem that is solvable.
  • The funding for the Emerging Contaminants projects at $1M is inadequate. 
  • Underfunding Emerging Contaminants projects will have a significant economic impact to the Lake community and Fairlee.

Town of Fairlee Cyanobacteria Protocol: Lake Morey

The Town will conduct visual monitoring testing (not toxin testing).

Visual monitoring can be done by Town staff and community members.

If  you suspect a potential Cyanobacteria outbreak, contact the State of VT at
1-800-439-8550 and the Fairlee Health Officer, the point person for the Town, at 1-800-333-4363 extension 103.

The VT state publication “Cyanobacteria – Guidance for VT Communities” is available to community members and posted on the Town web site.

The Health Officer will field calls from VT state officials, as well as, community members of potential findings of  Cyanobacteria.  The Town will advise community members not to swim, nor let pets into the water, where Cyanobacteria is evident.

If Cyanobacteria is found in the Town Beach swimming vicinity, the beach front will be posted closed until the bacteria has subsided. If necessary, the Health Officer may contact Town Beach staff to inform them of the potential findings and request the beach front be closed. The Health Officer will also close the beach front, in the event Beach Staff are not on duty.

How to Identify Cyanobacteria*

 *Cyanobacteria – Guidance for VT Communities – Appendix A
ads 8 Aug 2005/edited Lab 12/2008

Ways to identify a cyanobacteria(blue-green algae) accumulation:

STEP 1 Examine the material visually:
NOT cyanobacteria if :
– you can see leaf-like structures or roots
– the material is long and stringy, or can be lifted out of the water on a stick
– if it is firmly attached to plants, rock or the bottom (e.g. you can’t lift it out)

MAY be potentially hazardous cyanobacteria if :
– the material consists of small particles that are pinhead size or smaller
– the material is collecting in a layer at the surface or along the shoreline
– the water is murky and colored a brownish green, milky green or blue

STEP 2 Do the “float” test:
Many cyanobacteria can regulate their buoyancy and will float to the top of the
water when it is calm. Most other algae don’t have this ability. Most debris and
plant material will sink or be identifiable as debris. Microscopic animals will swim
randomly and often with a jerky motion.

You can check to see if cyanobacteria are present by filling a clear 2L soda bottle
or a bucket with water. The water should be collected away from any debris or
large plant material floating along the shoreline. Allow the bucket or bottle to
stand in a quiet sunny place, out of the wind. If present, cyanobacteria will often
begin to move toward the surface. Wait 15 – 30 minutes and observe the upper
portion of the container. Cyanobacteria, which may be a mix of several different
kinds, will tend to accumulate in the upper portion while debris and plant material
will be at the bottom. There may be smaller material in the middle, which will
remain suspended for some time. When filling the container from a dense
accumulation, minimize skin contact with the material by wearing gloves or a
plastic bag over your hands.

A thin layer of cyanobacteria at the top is usually not a problem. Cyanobacteria
are found in most water bodies at concentrations that are not of concern. If you
have ruled out non- cyanobacteria using the steps above, and there is a thick
layer that is more than an inch deep at the top of the container, it may be prudent
to have the sample examined microscopically.

Be aware that the concentration of cyanobacteria at a location can change daily,
even hourly, as the weather conditions change. If you do the float test routinely,
you will begin to become familiar with how the water and cyanobacteria look
under different conditions. Also, cyanobacteria may not always move to the
surface in 30 minutes. If there is a bloom in progress, with a large amount of
cyanobacteria in the water, at least a portion should move toward the surface.
With experience, you will become familiar with how your lake looks and when
conditions warrant a closer examination.