On the Algae Bloom, by Fran Wishnick

Beginning on or around August 24th of this year, a rare algae bloom pervaded the Wallkill River. Encompassing around 30 miles, the pea-soup colored bloom was observed from Montgomery to Rifton. While not unusual in a still water body like a lake or pond, an extended algae bloom such as this is definitely not the norm for a moving river. The factors that have worked in tandem to produce the bloom are: elevated nutrient levels and high temperatures coupled with little rain resulting in slow flow.

While not all algae blooms are toxic, this one has been determined to be of high toxicity. People should not touch or ingest the water and pets should not be allowed to drink or swim there during the algae bloom. It’s a very sad occurrence when the natural ecology is so impaired that people are advised to stay away from our river. Plus, when the algae bloom dies down eventually, fish kills due to sustained lack of oxygen are expected.

The Wallkill River Watershed Alliance and Riverkeeper have been actively involved in documenting, studying and reporting this bloom to the NYS DEC. Pesticides and fecal bacteria are examples of other concerns. For now, it is essential that full attention and funding be available to work on proper manure disposal and extended riparian buffers, that sewage treatment and septic tank issues be addressed, that scientific work continues to examine the sources of the high levels of nutrients and that we continue to be vigilant in working to restore the wonderful Wallkill River.

Fran Wishnick

Member, Wallkill River Watershed Alliance

The spilled-paint appearance of the toxin-producing Microcystis algae. New Paltz Community Gardens. Photo by Emily Vail.

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