N.Y. (WETM) — As you’re out by lakes and ponds this summer, be on the lookout for harmful algal blooms (HABs).

According to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, harmful algal blooms occur when certain types of algae grow quickly, bloom, and cover large portions of a lake or pond. These blooms produce toxins that are harmful to people and animals. HABs are likely caused by several factors, including excess nutrients, warm temperatures, calm waters, and more. Harmful algal blooms occur more often as summer temperatures reach their peak. Most HABs are reported in August and September.

“Harmful algal blooms contain toxins that pose health risks to people and animals, so we want to encourage New Yorkers to be on the lookout this summer as they spend time in the water,” said Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald

The DEC wants New Yorkers to “know it, avoid it, report it” when it comes to dealing with HABs. HABs can vary in appearance. These blooms might look like scattered green dots, long and linear green streaks, pea soup, or spilled green paint. HABs aren’t always bright green; they could be blue-green or white.

Not all algal blooms are harmful, but it’s still best to avoid areas that could have one. People, pets, and livestock should avoid contact with waters that appear to have algal blooms. Even if you aren’t 100% sure that what you’re dealing with is a harmful algal bloom, it’s best to report it to the DEC.

If you think you’ve encountered a HAB, you can use this form to report it through the New York HAB System. The form can be used on computers and smartphones. If you can’t complete the form, you can report your concern by sending an email to HABsInfo@dec.ny.gov. The DEC requests that you include pictures in your report if possible. If you are experiencing symptoms or have other health concerns related to a HAB, you should email harmfulalgae@health.ny.gov.

To see if a lake or pond near you has a harmful algal bloom, you can check out the DEC’s interactive map. To learn more about HABs and the risks they pose, you can visit this page on the DEC’s website.