Bacteria Closes Several Vermont Beaches As Temperatures Soar

Sections of Burlington saw green plumes of cyanobacteria in Lake Champlain Wednesday

NBC Universal, Inc.

Beach-goers in Vermont’s largest city were disappointed to learn they couldn’t go for a swim Wednesday — even as temperatures soared into the 90s, leaving them wishing they could go for a dip to cool off.

Several beaches, including Burlington’s largest and busiest — North Beach — were closed due to cyanobacteria blooms.

"It sucks," said Frederic Deneault, who was visiting Burlington with his family from the Montreal area. "I’d say it that way: it sucks. But at least we have a pool at the hotel so we know how to spend the afternoon."

The blooms were so vivid Wednesday, it almost looked like someone spilled green paint right into Lake Champlain.

Cyanobacteria, sometimes called blue-green algae, can be toxic and cause symptoms like rashes, diarrhea, or vomiting. The symptoms tend to be most dangerous for pets and children.

The Vermont Department of Health has more information online about the potential impacts from cyanobacteria.

NECN was there Wednesday when Burlington’s Parks, Recreation, & Waterfront Department was doing one of its regular tests for water safety — which led to another in a recent series of closures.

"We know that the lake should be a great place to cool off, so it’s really tough when we have to close it on hot days," said Erin Moreau, the waterfront superintendent for Burlington Parks, Recreation & Waterfront.

The clean water advocates at the Lake Champlain Committee said Wednesday they have heard cyanobacteria reports from other beaches and boat access areas, as well.

LCC trains citizen volunteers to monitor for cyanobacteria and submit their reports to an online tracker, which can be accessed here. 

“It’s not only the nutrients that feed cyanobacteria, it’s also temperatures, and when you have these high temperatures — and you know temperatures are on the rise with climate change — this is a local effect of that global issue,” said Lori Fisher, the executive director of the Lake Champlain Committee. 

The signs telling people to stay out of the water Wednesday meant a pair of travelers from Tennessee had to be content playing cards in the shade.

"We would’ve gone in the water if we could’ve," said Bessie Hughes, who is from the Knoxville area.

"We’re just hanging out here and having a good old time," added Tiffany Smelcer, who was enjoying the scenery with Hughes while noting it is still cooler in Vermont than in Tennessee.

The St. Maurice family from the Montreal area settled for a day on the playground.

"It’s hot — it’s very warm," lamented mom Gabrielle St. Maurice. "It would be fun to just cool down in the water, but not for a few days."

The city will keep testing daily, Moreau said, but to get the beaches opened back up, they really need a change in the weather — including cooler air, wind, and even some rain. 

Moreau said the city hopes conditions here do improve soon, so beach-goers can get back to enjoying summer as it should be.

Contact Us