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Last glimpse of spring, by Mel Hunt

Foam and blooms: Keuka Lake water questions answered


Lake foam isn’t a health concern, algal blooms are of serious concern

From Staff Reports,

Keuka Lake Association – Reports of Inquiries about Lake Foam.  Is It Dangerous?

Keuka Lake, along with all freshwater lakes, have always had some level of natural “foam” from wave action combined with organic matter that acts as a surfactant or foaming agent. Since 2001 we have seen at times, larger scaled foam episodes in some parts of the lake. Water samples taken from the lake indicate the foam is a natural occurring substance consistent with the decomposition of a large die-off of zebra mussels and algae. The foam is not a health concern for swimming or drinking water.

What is the cause of lake foam and why are we seeing higher amounts? The white foam found in lakes and streams is usually natural. Wind-driven currents frequently create parallel streaks of foam in open water. Foam is created as decomposing plants and animals release organic compounds into the water. The compounds act as a “surfactant” and reduce the surface tension of water, causing bubbles to form. Many people blame shoreline foam on detergents, but detergents don’t create long-lasting foam since they quickly lose their sudsing ability. Natural foam has a somewhat earthy or fishy aroma. Detergent foam, in contrast, will have a noticeable perfume smell.

The “lines” of foam that occur are caused by “langmuir” currents. These currents are formed on the sides of wind-driven waves causing a “funneling” action and the characteristic windrow of surface foam and other debris. The windrows will be more pronounced on a windy, southerly front.

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Keuka Lake Shoreline Monitoring Program Identifies 11 Potential Harmful Algal Blooms

Keuka Lake, NY – 9-15-2023

The Keuka Lake Shoreline Monitoring Program has been diligently tracking the water conditions on Keuka Lake, and last week, they identified 11 possible harmful algal blooms (HABs). This marks a significant development in this year’s monitoring efforts.

In total, Keuka Lake has now seen 21 blooms reported in the current year. Lab testing confirmed that 6 of these blooms were indeed harmful algal blooms. It’s worth noting that most of these blooms have been concentrated on the eastern branch of the lake.

The Keuka Lake community plays a vital role in this monitoring process. If you happen to spot a potential harmful algal bloom on Keuka Lake, please take a moment to report it. Your input is invaluable in helping to safeguard the lake’s water quality.

You can easily report a harmful algal bloom by sending an email to Lexie Davis at

The ongoing efforts of the Keuka Lake Shoreline Monitoring Program, in collaboration with concerned residents like you, continue to make a positive impact in preserving the pristine condition of Keuka Lake. Thank you for your vigilance and dedication to the well-being of this cherished natural resource.

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William D. Boyle, 75, Wellsville

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