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Prospect Park Alliance Tackles Toxic Algae Blooms

February 17, 2017

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has recently awarded Prospect Park Alliance $390,000 in funding to carry out an innovative pilot study, aimed at reducing toxic blue-green algae blooms and improving the water quality of the Park’s watercourse.

While the Park is a natural wonderland, many people are not aware that Prospect Park's Lake, waterfalls and other water features are fed by the city water supply. Phosphates in the water, which make it safe for us to drink, lead to excessive algae growth. This algae growth limits resources for other plant life and wildlife, which is detrimental to the health of the Park’s waterways.

Phosphates in the water also produce blooms of blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria. Certain types of cyanobacteria produce toxins that can pose a health risk for humans and animals. Skin contact can cause rashes or eye irritation, while ingestion can cause more serious effects. These blooms have led to closing areas of the Prospect Park Lake that were previously available for dogs to swim due to concerns over exposure.

This pilot study will enable the Alliance to create a filtration system—known as an ecoWEIR—at two locations in the Park, where city water enters the watercourse. The aim of this system is to reduce phosphates, thereby reducing excessive algae growth. The ecoWEIR grant was recently awarded, and the Alliance is now working on a timeline for the implementation of the project. The filtration system and its results will be monitored over the course of multiple seasons to determine if the pilot study is a success. In addition to enhancing the health and resilience of the Prospect Park Lake, this project provides an opportunity to educate the public about water health. If successful, the Prospect Park ecoWEIR project will be replicable in parks nationwide.