Assemblymember Anna Kelles and Senator Rachel May Announce New Legislation to Combat Harmful Algal Blooms in New York Waters

Assemblymember Anna Kelles (D-125th District) and Senator Rachel May (D-48th District) come together to protect the environment and New York’s precious freshwater resources with the Harmful Algal Bloom Monitoring and Prevention (HABMAP) Act (A8867/S8356). The bill will provide the state with a critical clearing house of data and strategic information related to harmful algal blooms (HABs), ensuring the health of residents and waters of New York. 

While HABS were once rare in the state, they have recently appeared in reservoirs, lakes, ponds, and coastal areas. In 2022, the DEC reported 1,053 HABS in 204 water bodies across the state, which likely understates the problem due to underreporting. HABs impede bodies of water for many purposes like recreation and industry, but most importantly, as sources of drinking water. New York has been one of the more proactive states in monitoring HABs on specific water bodies, but concerns remain that a comprehensive and coordinated State strategy is needed to monitor, identify causes, and take steps to more effectively prevent and mitigate HABs.

For the first time in New York, the HABMAP Act will create a centralized resource for reporting and dealing with HABS, including potential and known causes, best practice interventions, expertise, and funding resources. The data and subsequent report will enable the state to effectively and efficiently administer a grant program supporting data-driven best practices in preventing and mitigating harmful algal blooms.

Assemblymember Anna Kelles stated, “Year after year we are seeing ever increasing harmful algal bloom (HABs) outbreaks across the state. Last year alone we had over a thousand outbreaks spanning almost every county in the state, including every Borough in NYC. HABs are not only are toxic to humans and animals and destructive to natural ecosystems, but for years, consistent summer-long outbreaks have been decimating the economy of many of our communities that depend on ecotourism dollars to support their local businesses. It is not enough to simply track and document the outbreaks. We need a comprehensive database of the outbreaks and the water quality conditions so that we can create effective and targeted strategies to intervene and prevent current and future outbreaks.” 

“Our state's freshwater resources are the envy of the world, but they are increasingly vulnerable to pollution and the effects of a warming climate. Every season, toxic algal blooms plague many New York lakes, causing a potentially dangerous situation for residents who depend on lakes for drinking water or use them for recreation,” said Senator Rachel May (D-Onondaga, Cayuga). “The HABMAP Act will help state and local governments understand, identify, and manage threats to our water while maintaining the high quality of life that residents, employers, recreational boaters, fishing enthusiasts, and tourists from around the world have come to expect.”