St. Albans Bay Plagued By Blue-Green Algae Blooms

Aug 28, 2015

The hot and humid dog days of summer are usually perfect swimming weather — but that’s not true in St. Albans Bay.

There, high temperatures and stagnant air have exacerbated burgeoning blue green algae blooms.

Currently the Vermont Department of Health’s Blue-Green Algae Tracker shows multiple locations in St Albans Bay on high alert for the potentially toxic cyanobacteria.

Beginning last week the Bay saw significant and smelly algae blooms; the color has alternatively been described as turquoise and like the color of “pea soup.” Reports indicate that a dog that went swimming last week in the algal bloom along the Georgia Shore  was dead two days later.

“They are a stinky mess that currently extends from the Kilkare State Park on the northern side of the bay all the way south to Georgia shore,” says Michelle Monroe, a reporter at the St. Albans Messenger.

“Monroe says you can still smell things driving through town, and even when the state health department hasn’t issued a high alert:               

”Folks should always be on the alert for blooms in the summer months because they can form and dissipate very quickly,” she says.

“So the state does urge people – and their pets – to be very cautious about entering any water that looks as though it might have a bloom in it.

So far drinking water safe

St. Albans city has a drinking water intake in the bay, but it is located far enough out that it is generally not in an area where the blooms occur.

“And they do keep constant monitoring for turbidity, which is a good way of determining whether or not algae bloom is occurring,” says Monroe. She says the city always does daily visual checks of the intake for signs of blue green algae.

“So far there have not been problems around the intake for the bay.”

A solution in sight?

Not all of the city's water is coming out of St. Alban's Bay, it also uses some water from a reservoir it located in Fairfax.  

As part of the state’s plan to meet new Environmental Protection Agency limits for phosphorous runoff into the lake, the state is meeting with farmers in the bay watershed.

Monroe says St. Albans city and town both have municipal storm sewer separation system permits

“Storm water is being redirected from Main Street into Taylor Park and there are permeable pavers,” says Monroe, which help filter the water down into the soil so nutrients don’t flow directly into the bay.

“The city is continuing to take steps to turn Taylor Park into basically a way of processing storm water because it has a nice sandy soils that are good for that kind of thing.”

And in September the city will ask voters about $500, 000 to separate 10 catch basins from the storm system, and that will help reduce this combined sewer overflows the in their waste water treatment facility.

“Right now there's still a lot of storm water that's coming into that facility, so we’ll no longer be sending that storm water into the sewage system,” says Monroe.

At the same time the city is doing a pilot study to look at reducing the amount of phosphorus coming out of the waste water treatment facility  

Read more about the algae blooms in the St. Albans Messenger

Follow VPR News' reporting on water quality in Vermont in our ongoing series, Downstream.