MAHOPAC, NY– Surrounded by residents and local elected officials, Chele Chiavacci Farley, candidate for Congress, and MaryEllen Odell, Putnam County Executive, called for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take immediate action to prevent harmful algal blooms (“HAB”) from occurring in vulnerable waterbodies.
“Harmful algal blooms are becoming more and more common across the country and, specifically, in the Hudson Valley,” said Chele Farley. “These occurrences are extremely damaging to our local environment and economy, and they can compromise our drinking water supply. The federal government has a responsibility to act and, as the Hudson Valley’s voice in Congress, I will make sure that the federal government does its fair share and is focused on the issues that matter most to our community.”
Harmful algal blooms are caused by the combination of runoff containing phosphorus and other contaminants and warm water temperatures. HAB-related toxins are known to produce skin rashes, hay fever-like symptoms, as well as respiratory and gastrointestinal distress from short-term exposure.
"As County Executive, I have worked closely with our health department and our state representatives to address this critical issue, but we have not received the support we need from the federal government," said MaryEllen Odell. There are currently four beaches in Putnam County that are closed due to HAB, including Lake Casse in Mahopac, in large part because we have not received the necessary funding needed to prevent harmful algal blooms. Which is why we're calling on the EPA and the federal government to act immediately."
In 2017, more than 100 beaches across New York State were closed for at least part of the summer due to HABs, and local drinking water supplies were threatened. Harmful algal blooms are a growing problem both locally and across the country, with toxic algae (also known as Cyanobacteria) also responsible for closing New Jersey’s largest lake (Lake Hopatcong), 21 Mississippi beaches and Mohegan Lake beaches in Westchester County.
When New York State created the Water Quality Rapid Response Team in 2018 to combat harmful algal blooms that threaten lakes used for recreational purposes and sources of drinking water, it identified the following priority waterbodies in the Hudson Valley: Lake Carmel, Palmer Lake, Putnam Lake and the Monhagen Brook watershed, including the five reservoirs serving the Middletown area. Through this initiative, the state provides funding to develop action plans for vulnerable lakes to reduce sources of pollution that spark algal blooms, as well as monitoring and treatment technology.
“Just like with the PFAS contamination at Stewart Air National Guard Base, New York State is stepping in and acting where our federal representatives are failing us,” Farley said. “The Hudson Valley is a place where people want to live, work and raise their families because of our superior quality of life. In Congress, I will work to protect our water supply and everything that makes our region so special.”