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Myers Park Beach Closed

The Myers Park swimming area was closed this week due to toxic blue-green algae.  HABs (Harmful Algal Blooms) have been observed in multiple locations around the southern end of Cayuga Lake from Aurora to Northwest Ithaca, including including the Myers Park beach and Salt Point shoreline.  The Lansing beach was immediately closed when HABs were discovered there Saturday.  By Wednesday Lansing Recreation Supervisor Patrick Tyrrell got a call with good news.  A Health Department official told Tyrrelll that test results from Albany were negative for toxins, so the Myers Park beach is now reopened.

"I just got off the phone with the Health Department," Tyrell said Wednesday evening. "We're open.  All clear, and good to go."

The algae was spotted Saturday by Recreation Department lifeguards.  Tyrell says this was the first time the beech had to be closed because of HABs.  He noted the Recreation Department 'self-reports' sightings of the algae, which they immediately did.  He also closed the gate to Salt Point to discourage people from going into the water there, even thoughswimming is always prohibited at Salt Point.

"Our lifeguards saw the HAB Saturday morning around 11ish," says Tyrrell. "We immediately reported to the Health Dept and they shut us down immediately from swimming.  We left lifeguards on duty to keep people out of the water and notified each person that came into the park.  We also closed the gate at Salt Point to keep people from there, even though there is no swimming allowed there, not all follow the rules.  We have been in constant contact with the Health Dept, they have been very helpful."

While some blue-green algae is not toxic Recreation Department officials were taking no chances.  The swimming area was closed immediately with a temporary sign was posted explaining why.  That sign was to be replaced with a more permanent, readable sign mid-week.  The new signs arrived on Wednesday, but will now be stored in case more HABs are spotted in the future.  By mid week test results were still pending, but blooms composed of dolichospermum had been observed at the beach, as well as on the shore line by Lansing Station Road as recently as last Saturday (7/13), and another recent sighting at the Ladoga Park shoreline.  Tyrrell said that by mid-week he knew of no cases of swimmers at Myers Park or Salt Point becoming sick.

Swimming is always prohibited at Salt Point, although people are often observed swimming there.  Some swimmers also ignored the warning at the Myers Park beach.  But town officials warned that swimming at either location could cause illness and those who chose to ignore the warning were doing so at their own risk. Tyrrell says the swim area has to be clear for at least 24 hours before the Health Department can retest the water.  They performed the test Tuesday, and sent the samples to Albany for analysis.

"I want to say thank you to (Lansing Schools Buildings and grounds Supervisor) Glenn Fenner at the schools," Tyrell told the Town Board Wednesday. "We had a whole bunch of camps going this week, and with the algae blooms in the lake, they let us into the High School pool several times this week."

The Tompkins County Health Department advises that if you see blue-green algae, stay out of the water.  You should not swim in an area that had the algae until at least a day after it has disappeared.  If you are exposed to it you should rinse yourself thoroughly -- the same applies to dogs -- and immediately see a doctor if any of the symptoms occur.  The department is also asking that you report HAB-related health symptoms by calling them at (607) 274-6604, or emailing the New York State Health Department at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has posted a photo guide to HABs you might encounter, to help New Yorkers better recognize them.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exposure to microcystins can cause abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea, liver inflammation and hemorrhage, acute pneumonia, acute dermatitis, kidney damage, and potential tumor growth promotion.  Symptoms may begin showing up within hours, but normally show up in humans and animals within a week.  Symptoms vary depending on how you are exposed.  If your skin is exposed you may break out in a rash, blisters on your skin, or hives.  If you swallow it you may have stomach pains, diarrhea, nausea, fever, or headaches.  Simply inhaling infected water droplets can cause sore throat, symptoms similar to asthma, or chest pains.  There is no specific treatment for microcystin poisoning.

One of the more extreme documented cases took place in 1996 in Brazil, where 116 patients were admitted to a renal dialysis clinic, 100 of those suffered acute liver failure, and 76 of those died.  Animals, including dogs and birds, may be affected as well.

Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) tends to multiply in warm, calm weather in lakes that have high nutrient levels.  It may turn the water green, and often has floating scum layers.  Most cyanobacteria are not harmful, but some types produce toxins.  The algae may last all summer,

Parks and Recreation Department staff check the beach for HABs three times a day.  Terrell says the checks began about two weeks prior to the algae being found.

One person who has reserved a camp site at the park complained that he wanted to cancel his reservation if there is no swimming.  But Tyrrell says that there is no refund policy, and the question is moot with the beach reopening Thursday.

"It’s something in the environment that we cannot control, like the weather, which we also don’t issue refunds for," he says.  "I feel bad about it with the temperatures and humidity, everyone wants to jump in the water, but it just isn’t safe for our patrons and for most around the lake right now."

The daily checks for HABs will continue at Myers Park throughout the swimming season.

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