Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the closure status of Southwick Beach. We regret the error.
HENDERSON, N.Y. (WWTI) — Southwick Beach is closed due to a Harmful Algal Bloom.
According to NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Public Information Officer Dan Keefe, the HAB was first observed at Southwick Beach on August 5.
Harmful algal blooms are the rapid growth of algae or cyanobacteria that are typically caused when water is warm, slow-moving and full of nutrients.
Jefferson County Public Health Planner Faith Lustik warned that blooms can be harmful to people, animals or the environment if they produce toxins, become too dense, use up oxygen in the water or release harmful gases.
“It can get in your eyes, it can be on your skin, you can inhale it, or you can ingest it,” Lustik explained.
People and animals can get sick when they have contact with water or food that contains certain types of algal connected to HABs.
The severity of an algal bloom-related illness depends on how a person or animal was exposed, how long they have been exposed, as well as which type and how much of a toxin was present.
“[The effects] might be neurological, there’s a neurotoxin type,” Lustik stated. “There’s one that causes gastrointestinal problems, and if you get it in your eye, you can have eye problems.”
Although these blooms come and go, they tend to intensify during the summer months.
“When the sun is out for a long period of time, it creates this algae on the top of the water that doesn’t let the sunlight in. August is our time to really be on the lookout for it,” Lustik emphasized.
For Southwick Beach to reopen, the water has to be clear of a bloom for 24 hours Keefe stated that as of the morning hours on August 9, the bloom appeared to have cleared. A water sample has been sent to a lab for analysis, however, the earliest the beach will reopen is August 11.