Algae blooms raise concerns in Franklin County

FRANKLIN, Vt. –A toxic algae is spreading in Franklin County waters. Some homeowners are calling the spread of blue-green algae blooms the worst they’ve seen in years. 

“Just look out, it’s not something you... want to walk into,” warned Jim Cameron, President of the Franklin Watershed Committee. Cameron sits on the edge of Lake Carmi and can’t believe what he sees. The lake he grew up on is now overrun by a crusty green substance called blue-green algae.  “I’ve never ever seen this before — ever — on this lake, so this is clearly a watershed moment,” Cameron said.

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Blue-green algae can make humans sick — it comes from excess phosphorous running into the lake.  Much of that phosphorous comes from sewage runoff or pollution from farms that fertilize with manure. “If there is a tributary coming into this lake right now from groundwater, it’s bringing phosphorous into this lake,” Cameron said.

“We can’t use it for weeks at a time. And so far this summer, this has been the longest period we haven’t been able to use the lake,” said Larry Myott, a local property owner.

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Algae from Lake Carmi can eventually make its way to Lake Champlain. Cameron’s group works on decreasing pollution in Lake Carmi. “One of the major issues is enforcement,” Cameron said. He says the Department of Agriculture needs to do a better job enforcing many of its farming regulations. The department monitors rivers and lakes to make sure toxins from blue-green algae do not enter the drinking water. 

The Vermont Health Department’s website — updated on August 22nd  — says the lake is still safe: “Low alert conditions reported. Open for recreation, but caution is advised in any areas where dense accumulations or scums are apparent. Anyone on the lake or shoreline should watch for and avoid algae blooms.”

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Cameron says any algae turns swimmers away and towns like Enosburgh and Franklin suffer economically because of it. “People don’t want to come swim at the lake. They’re not going to shop at the local snack bar. There are people making decisions to sell their camps,” he said.

Not all move away though — even as the algae blooms hover on the water’s surface, Larry Myott says he still sees swimmers in the water. “A couple days before they were swimming at the state park where the sign was clearly posted at the beach: warning, algae problem,” he said.

Vermont agriculture officials did not return calls Monday to comment on farming regulations. The Vermont Department of Health says humans and their pets should avoid any area in the lake where they see blue-green algae on the surface. 

 

Photo caption: Photos by Larry Myott

View original article at: Algae blooms raise concerns in Franklin County

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