A bill is moving through the N.H. Legislature that calls for state personnel to learn more about cyanobacteria and mitigate its spread.

House Bill 1066 initially called for creating a commission to “investigate and analyze the environmental and human and animal health impacts relating to cyanobacteria blooms in New Hampshire water bodies.” As amended, it would direct the N.H. Department of Environmental Services to do this work.

Cyanobacteria naturally occur in bodies of water worldwide, according to NHDES, and may produce toxins. Exposure to those toxins can result in short-term health effects, such as skin irritation. If they are ingested over a long period of time, cyanotoxins can cause damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system.

Increasing numbers of cyanobacteria blooms have been reported across the state in recent years, according to an N.H. Bulletin article.

Many New Hampshire lakes and ponds have played host to the bacteria, including some in the Monadnock Region.

In the fall of 2020, volunteers monitoring Spofford Lake found a black substance floating in the water. They notified the N.H. Department of Environmental Services, which identified the substance as cyanobacteria and issued an advisory against wading and swimming in the water.

Bayard Tracy, president of the Spofford Lake Association, said the occurrence presented a lot of questions that were never answered, including what caused the bloom.

Tracy first became aware of House Bill 1066 through N.H. Lakes, a Concord-based nonprofit that aims to protect and care for Granite State lakes.

Cyanobacteria is a concern across New Hampshire, Tracy said, and there are few resources for learning about and managing the bacteria.

“There is a dearth of information, there’s a dearth of experience, for those of us who are working to keep the water quality of our lakes high,” he said. “And so any help we could get would be very beneficial.”

Tracy recently wrote a letter to the House Resources, Recreation and Development Committee to voice support for the bill.

“HB 1066 is a start to put in place the knowledge and understanding of how to deal with cyanobacteria blooms in the future,” he said. “The health of NH’s Lakes is crucial to the state’s economy. All NH residents need these answers.”

At its executive session in Concord on Wednesday, the Resources, Recreation and Development Committee voted unanimously that the bill ought to pass with an amendment that would direct the Department of Environmental Services to create a plan by November of 2023 to address and mitigate cyanobacteria in the state.

Rep. Jim Creighton, R-Antrim, proposed the amendment, saying it would help speed up the process.

“After talking to several folks after the testimony, it occurred to us that it might be better to just direct DES to do a plan,” Creighton said, “and that we would achieve the same results, only it would be much quicker than it would be to do a commission.”

A public hearing for the bill was held last month.

A commission would consist of a group of volunteers who would research cyanobacteria impacts before making a recommendation to the NHDES, Creighton explained to The Sentinel on Wednesday. The amendment bypasses an unnecessary step, he said, allowing the department, in all its expertise, to get a jump on the issue.

Rene Pelletier, NHDES water division director, also attended the session and agreed that the NHDES would more quickly be able to devise a plan to address the phenomenon than a commission.

“We support [the amendment],” he said. “We believe that cyanobacteria in the last couple of years has grown increasingly in numbers and areas and lakes.”

He added that the department won’t be able to eradicate cyanobacteria but will focus on identifying the tools and resources for managing the blooms if possible.

Next up, the bill will be voted on by the full House, and if approved, head to the Senate.

Molly Bolan can be reached at 603-352-1234, extension 1436 or mbolan@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @BolanMolly.