Washington, D.C. – After harmful algal bloom was discovered in a Southampton pond this month, totaling four water bodies across Suffolk County tainted with this bacteria, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, today announced that President Obama recently signed into law the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act, bipartisan legislation aimed to help prevent the spread of harmful algal blooms in New York State waterways.
Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are a problem across New York and on Long Island, and have resulted in the closure of beaches and lakes, as well as damage to fish habitats off the coast. The occurrence of blue-green algae is monitored by New York State, and the Department of Environmental Conservation noted that the harmful algae was recently found in a third pond in Southampton, totaling four bodies of water in Suffolk County now impacted by this bacteria, including Mill Pond and Lake Agawam in Southampton and Big Reed Pond in Montauk. This year alone, the agency issued blue-green algae notices for a total of 16 lakes across New York State. Senator Gillibrand co-sponsored and pushed for a vote on this measure as part of her broad effort to protect New York’s water bodies from toxic contamination and invasive species.
“New York’s vast water systems help drive our economy, offer miles of recreation, attract tourists, and provide clean drinking water for millions of families,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This legislation is a major step toward protecting our local waterways from harmful algal blooms, strengthening our local economies and preserving the natural beauty of Long Island’s waterways for generations to come.”
After a modified version of the bill passed out of the House of Representatives, the final bill was passed out of the full Senate last month and the president signed the bill into law last week.
HABs are the rapid overproduction of algae, which produce toxins that are detrimental to plants and animals. Blooms can kill fish and other aquatic life by decreasing sunlight available to the water and by depleting the available oxygen in the water, causing hypoxia. On the coast, they are often referred to as brown or red tides. The existence of blue-green algae is a particular problem in New York’s freshwater lakes. Blue-green algae are a form of algal bloom that has an unpleasant appearance and odor, and will cause illness in humans and animals that come into contact with it.
Senator Gillibrand fought for the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act, bipartisan legislation that reauthorizes and expands an Inter-Agency Task Force on Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia to include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It would require this Task Force to establish a national harmful algal bloom and hypoxia program, develop and publish a national harmful algal blooms and hypoxia action strategy, assess interagency work and spending plans for implementing such program’s activities, review such program’s distribution of federal grants and funding to address research priorities, promote the development of new technologies for predicting, monitoring, and mitigating harmful algal blooms and hypoxia conditions and report on hypoxia. The legislation would also require the development of a national strategy to understand, detect, predict, control, mitigate, and respond to marine and freshwater hypoxia events.