Green Water Causes Confusion

By Matt Porter

October 16, 2012 Updated Oct 16, 2012 at 6:30 PM EDT

Silver Lake, PA (WBNG Binghamton) Fall means a change of colors for many things in nature.

But, one we don't expect, is our water.

But near Tripp Lake in Silver Lake, Pennsylvania, John Dillenbeck from Brackney found a familiar creek turned deep green overnight.

"The last couple months are the first time I've ever seen it that way, and I come down once a week," said Dillenbeck.

Dillenbeck has walked the surrounding trails since he was a kid, but never did he see the water change its color so dramatically.

"It was like green paint," he said, "Latex green paint in the water."

Cliff Kraft, a freshwater ecologist from Cornell University, said the water was filled with Cyanobacteria, a bacteria that can grow quickly during the fall.

"Realistically, there are Cyanobacteria blooms that occur all the time," said Kraft. "They occur in lakes and are sometimes very temporary. They come and they go, usually people don't even notice them."

The bacteria can produce toxins that if consumed could be poisonous. Often, dogs or other animals will get sick after drinking the green water said Kraft.

"Regularly occurring blooms of Cyanobacteria definitely can be a concern, people should try to figure out why they are having these blooms," he said.

But in this case, where the water returned to a more bluish hue just days after turning green, Kraft said the likely cause was our unusually warm and dry summer.

"There were a lot of things I observed this summer, both on land and on water that were very odd," he said.

Kraft said Cyanobacteria blooms in creeks wouldn't get into ground or well water.

One human influence for this kind of bacteria is phosphorus, which can be increased in lakes and streams from dumping fertilizer into the water.

Northern Pennsylvania and Southern New York are known for higher than usual phosphorus concentrations according to Kraft.

He also said contaminants from hydraulic fracturing are most likely not a cause.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection did not respond to inquiries for this story.