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Testing the waters at Sylvan Beach

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Testing the waters at Sylvan Beach
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It's green, slimy, potentially harmful and it's living along the shores of Sylvan Beach. So why do some swimmers say they're not concerned? Our Sarah Blazonis reports.

SYLVAN BEACH, N.Y. -- The waters along Sylvan Beach sported a green tint Monday morning, a far cry from the mess some saw in this part of Oneida Lake at the end of last week.

"It was like a film on top of the water," said Michael Santagata, a Florida resident vacationing in Sylvan Beach.

"The best way everybody describes it is it looks almost like paint," said Village Administrator Joe Benedict.

It is blue-green algae, a growth that forms following periods of hot weather. Village officials say it's fairly common and blooms are normally spotted at least once a year. Still, swimming has been restricted since Thursday.

"Kind of like a 'boil water' advisory or 'eat only one fish out of Onondaga Lake' advisory," said Benedict. "I mean, if you eat two, I doubt if it's the end of the world. It's a recommendation."

The Oneida County Health Department says Monday test results show levels of the algae to be unacceptably high, but that's not stopping some vacationers from getting their feet wet.

"We're making sure that no one has any open cuts and they're not sitting in it, they're not playing in it, they're just kind of wading out in it," said Sharon Vazquez, on vacation from Binghamton.

Dermatitis, respiratory problems and even nausea are just some of the health effects officials say blue-green algae could cause. Still, it seems as if those on land are more worried about the algae than swimmers themselves.

Officials say beach attendance was noticeably down this weekend, despite good weather and temperatures reaching well into the 80s. That's translated into fewer customers for business that say those days are some of their busiest.

"We're packed and I think we had about eight people Friday night and about 12 Saturday night. So, it's a big difference. It was horrible," said Craig Erick, whose family owns the Flashback Cafe Pancake House Main St.

Businesses are taking comfort that the beach isn't completely closed as signs suggest. People can still sunbathe or swim at their own risk. It remains to be seen how many will do so before the algae clears on its own.

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