The Lake Champlain Basin Program plans to start monitoring fish in the lake for mercury as well as toxins produced by cyanobacteria – commonly known as blue-green algae.
While not all cyanobacteria emits toxins, scientists can’t predict which blooms will be toxic and which will not. The toxins the Lake Champlain Basin Program plans to test for are microcystin (a liver toxin) and anatoxin (a neurotoxin). Cyanobacteria is known to release both of the toxins as the cells die, but the state of Vermont doesn’t have much information about what they do to the ecosystem in the lake.
The Lake Champlain Basin Program is taking proposals for a $56,700 program to test water and fish tissue samples from Lake Champlain to see how present the toxins are both within active cyanobacteria blooms as well as during the spring when cyanobacteria is relatively rare.
In a release announcing the testing, the basin program’s technical coordinator said the data will help guide public health and cleanup efforts related to water pollution.
“Data generated from this project will help resource managers and health officials frame appropriate guidance around the health risks of handling and consuming fish exposed to certain cyanotoxins,” he said.
The basin’s plan for testing doesn’t include testing for the toxin known as BMAA, which a recent study suggests could link blue green algae blooms to Alzheimer’s disease. Vermont Department of Health Toxicologist Sarah Vose said the study doesn’t conclusively show a link and says testing Lake Champlain for BMAA would be expensive.