Toxic algae concerns Long Island communities

Lake Agawam acts as a backyard backdrop for Southampton resident Joyce Giuffra. It was one of the reasons why she chose this Hamptons home more than a decade ago but blue-green algae and growing pollution has caused her and her family nothing but headaches.

"It's disgusting, toxic," she said. "It's a hazard."

You can look but don't swim, fish or boat. Environmentalists say the lake's neon green color is not only far from inviting but it poses a significant health threat.

Attempts to clean up the 60-acre lake haven't prevented these major alga-blooms. Now new leadership in the Village of Southampton will give it another try.

It's formed the Lake Agawam Conservancy- a nonprofit group to protect and preserve the water body.

"We already raised $300,000," said Village of Southampton Mayor Jesse Warren. "Our goal is, by the end of the month, in two weeks to raise over half a million dollars we want to use the money to clean the lake and do public-private partnerships."

Aerial photos taken by lifelong Southampton resident Tim Corwin show the damage. He says something desperately needs to be done.

"If the winds blowing and you can smell the lake you're breathing spores and it could be dangerous to human health," he said.

Experts say blue-green algae are fed by nitrogen from septic tanks and cesspools as well as fertilizers running into the lake from stormwater. The algae attack the liver and are toxic to wildlife, pets, and people.

"Don't use fertilizer, pick up your pet waste and keep a natural buffer around your property to filter out the stormwater so the contents aren't traveling down to the lake," said Adrienne Esposito with Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

Village officials also encourage residents to apply for large grants through town and county programs to replace antiquated septic systems.