A recent report shows for the first time the widespread reach of harmful algal blooms that occurred this summer, including in parts of the Great Lakes.
Twenty-one states have issued health warnings in response to harmful algal blooms on 147 different bodies of water as diverse as the Great Lakes, ponds and reservoirs, according to the report by Resource Media.
About 45 percent of all of the advisories this summer occurred in Great Lake states, the majority in New York. Yet some states, like Michigan and Illinois, did not report one occurrence.
That does not necessarily mean there was a lack of harmful algae blooming in those states. Although many states have monitoring programs for toxic algal blooms, funding to support the programs often comes up short.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Andy Buchsbaum, regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center, “There are a lot of unreported toxic algal blooms. You can’t conclude that New York was hit the hardest.”
The number of reported blooms in Great Lakes states includes 50 in New York, 10 in Ohio, four in Wisconsin and three in Indiana.
The National Wildlife Federation helped distribute the report, which includes a map of the locations where health advisories were triggered.
Algal blooms occur when runoff of fertilizer enters water, fertilizing the algae that can produce toxic cyanobacteria. High numbers of algal blooms often correspond to a significant amount of rainfall.
“We’re not talking about a thin layer of algae,” said Buchsbaum. “We’re talking about algae six inches thick. The algal blooms can be really massive and incredibly harmful.”
State and federal programs, such as the Conservation Stewardship Program, create financial support for farmers who are willing to devote part of their land to cover crops and other conservation practices.
The Conservation Stewardship Program is part of the U.S. Farm Bill, which expired Sept. 30th. Congress will either extend the bill or adopt a new but similar bill.