good work new York podcast episode 3

Good Work, New York!

Good Work, Jennifer!

Good Work, Jennifer! (S1:E3 of Good Work New York Vlogcast)

Today we’re talking to Environmental Educator, Jennifer Zunino-Smith, about a very serious topic: Pets! More specifically, how improperly using fertilizer can cause a Harmful Algae Bloom which can hurt your pets if they swim or drink from a waterbody with a toxic bloom. To learn more about what we talked about today, visit our website:

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s Map of HABs in NYS is available here:


Charlie-- Hi there, Charlie here. Communications Manager for Cornell Cooperative Extension and this is another episode of our little podcast 'Good Work New York.' Today with me I have a special guest. This special guest is miss Jennifer Zunino-Smith. Say hello.

Jen-- Hello! Environmental Educator here at Cornell Cooperative Extension Rockland County.

C-- I always love how you just fill in the blanks for me. It really helps and that's actually why I have you here today. Because I have some questions that I'm a little concerned, and I hope you can help me figure this out. So I've heard about these green floating slimy monsters in waterways, and how it can make your fur-babies sick so if your doggos go into the water they can get really sick.

J-- They can get sick or die! Those green floating monsters you are referring to are harmful algae blooms, which are nearly impossible to distinct between a regular algae bloom. The thing is a harmful algae bloom has a cyanobacteria within it. It's a toxic bacteria within it. So if your pet were to jump into a water that has a harmful algae bloom, he will then come out and most likely lick himself and lick himself clean and ingest a lot of that toxic cyanobacteria which can make him very sick or could even kill him. People are also advised to avoid waters that have these green floating monsters because it is really not easy to tell the difference between a regular bloom and a harmful algae bloom visually. There are some characteristics however the only way to confirm a harmful algae bloom is if the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation comes out and does a test to confirm that that is indeed a harmful algae bloom so people and pets should avoid it and report it at once to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

C-- Okay, so if I see a green floating thing I can't tell the difference if it's good or bad?

J-- Correct.

C-- And I should avoid it, and I should keep my fur babies out of the water.

J-- Absolutely.

C-- And if I see it I should report it.

J-- Report it with a photo if possible to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation at their harmful algae bloom notifications page.

C-- Great! Okay, so now that we know to avoid them is there any way that maybe say a live interactive map of where they've been sighted in the county?

J-- Yes, from that harm Algae notification page New York DEC's harmful algae notification page, they do have an interactive map of the 2019 blooms typically with photos and if they've been suspected or confirmed. If you're looking at historical data you can come take a look at Cornell Cooperative Extension's Stormwater and Water Quality interactive map because I've mapped out those locations and whether or not they've been suspected blooms or confirmed blooms with link to the DEC’s website. If you also want to look at historical data prior to 2019 the New York State DEC's harmful algae bloom notification page will have a chart of that data but not mapped.

C-- Great. So I'll put the links to that map from the DEC in the description and I'll also put a link in to our webpage because we have more information about all of this stuff too. Right?

J-- Correct and in addition if you are to come in contact with a bloom you're not sure if it's harmful or not the DEC's harmful algae notification page gives you tips on what to do if you yourself have come into contact with it. It's a public health hazard in addition to being a great hazard for your pet.

C-- Okay, so now that we know all of this, is there any way to prevent them or stop them from happening?

J-- Yes, residents can do a lot to prevent harmful algae blooms or even reduce the risk. One of those things that residents can do is always be mindful of washing your car. Because car-wash can have a lot of phosphorus in it. So if you're going to wash your car at home, at the house, you should wash it in the grass. The grass will soak up that phosphorus and utilize it for food. If you wash it in the driveway, the car wash containing all this phosphorus will go down into the local into the storm drain and into the local waterway, and the reason that's a problem is because phosphorus is a nutrient. So when you put excess nutrients into our local waterways the algae will just gobble it up and proliferate and bloom. Another nutrient we want to watch out for is nitrogen. They typically go hand-in-hand with what we are doing but today we're just going to sort of focus on phosphorus. Second thing that residents can do, very important thing, always be mindful and become educated about correct phosphorus use. As a matter of fact there's Rockland County Fertilizer Law Act and one of the main parts of this act is it tells you because there are adequate amounts of phosphorus in Rockland County soils, you cannot apply -it is contrary and illegal. It is contrary to the Rockland County law to apply fertilizer containing phosphorus to your lawn, unless you have had a soil test that indicates the need for it. The soil test you can get done here at Cornell Cooperative Extension. We will mail out your soil for you. It will come back and it will tell you if indeed you need phosphorus. Because, again, most soils in New York State have adequate amounts of phosphorus. And if you do need phosphorous: how much you need. Therefore after you find out how much you need you can only apply that amount of phosphorous to your lawn.

C-- Okay, so as a homeowner we need to be careful where we wash our car. We should wash it over the grass if we're gonna do it at home or do it at a car wash?

J-- Correct.

C-- And we should be very careful with fertilizing. And it sounds like this law has a lot of particulars?

J-- It does.

C-- Is it on our website?

J-- Yeah.

C-- And all explained out in nice bullet points and everything?

J-- Yes, it is. We have a brochure and it's called "Are You Illegally Fertilizing in Rockland County." It's available from our fact sheet link on the web page.

C--Wonderful, I'll put a link to that as well.

J-- In addition to harmful algae blooms and what you can do to reduce the chance of a harmful algae blooms.

C-- Great. So now we know homeowners are informed of this law - or should be informed of this law. What about people like contractors and landscapers? Do they know about this?

J-- Yes, Charlie. As a matter of fact we have a monthly fertilizer law class where we reach out to contractors and landscapers to inform them about the Rockland County fertilizer law. As per the law they have to take it once every two years.

C-- Great. That's the class we have coming up next Wednesday, right?

J-- As a matter of fact I'm teaching it next Wednesday.

C-- Oh wow.

J-- And it will be in both English and Spanish.

C-- That's great. So if you're a contractor or a landscaper you haven't taken this course yet or it's been more than two years since the last time you've taken it, you should really try to come next Wednesday morning.

J-- Yes.

C-- Great. So that's our little episode for today and I feel so much better knowing how to protect all the little fur-babies out there. All those doggos. I just- you know, it's good to know that they can be safe.

J-- Yes.

C--So let's review. If we see green floating monster, we avoid it.

J-- Avoid it and report it. If they've come into contact, go to that harmful algae notification page for tips on what to do to stay safe.

C--Then we want to be careful what we do with the car and the fertilizer.

J-- Always wash our car in the grass or at a car wash and always apply fertilizer in accordance with the Rockland County fertilizer law act.

C --Wonderful. So that's our episode and thank you for coming on and helping me understand all of this.

J--You're very welcome

C-- And we'll see you next Wed- next Friday not next Wednesday. Next Friday at 1:00 p.m. for our next episode of Good Work New York. And that's some good work New York! Bye!

Last updated December 13, 2019