The swimming area at Verona Beach State Park on Oneida Lake has closed for the season, more than a week earlier than planned, because of water-quality concerns.
A Facebook post by the park announced the closure Friday morning. The scheduled end of swimming at the lifeguard-served area was Labor Day. The reason was a harmful algae bloom and a bacterial exceedence, according to state Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation spokesman Dan Keefe.
The beach at the park had been plagued this summer by a persistent bloom of cyanobacteria, sometimes called blue-green algae, which can produce a harmful toxin. State parks monitor water quality and may close if samples show high levels of bacateria or potentially harmful cyanobacteria, commonly called blue-green algae. Swimming elsewhere in the lake is not affected.
The park remains open, however, with its splash pad, water slide, campground, picnic area and food concessions open. Teddy’s Treats remains open from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. through Labor Day. Teddy’s operates under a contract with the state parks agency, according to owner Ted Learned, who also operates Teddy’s Treats at Delta Lake State Park.
“The water quality of Oneida Lake and its tributaries is an issue that extends far beyond Verona Beach State Park,” Keefe said in an email. “State Parks is working with state and federal agencies, universities and labs to identify triggers and possible actions to respond to HABs at State Park waterbodies. We are also working to increase our outreach and education on HABs to park staff and patrons.”
Commonly called blue-green algae, harmfal algal blooms are made of cyanobacteria and, though natural, can produce toxins harmful to people and pets. They are more common in late summer, when water temperatures peak, and most often happen on calm, sunny days. Water affected by algal blooms often appears covered with green masses other than normal vegetation, sometimes resembling pea soup.
Two suspicious algal blooms on Oneida Lake within the past two weeks have been reported to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. One near Verona Beach Aug. 12 was reported as small and localized, while another, Aug. 12 farther west in the lake near Mead Creek and near the Oswego County line, was reported as large localized. Another was in open water on July 20, off Kyser Beach Road, and another deemed suspicious and large localized July 5 east of Cleveland.
Oneida Lake was not among the 12 lakes to be eligible for special funding announced by the state last year to address harmful algae blooms. Those lakes were chosen for factors such as their histories of chronic blooms, tourism impact, and because they in some cases supply public drinking water. No public water systems draw their water from Oneida Lake. The plans for most of the lakes call for increased empowerment of local soil and water conservation districts and improvements to runoff and wastewater discharges.