Lake Erie algae blooming fast

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toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie

Persistent toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie are worrying local public officials. NOAA scientists predict this year’s bloom could be a near-record. Image: Karen Schaefer

By Karen Schaefer

On the eve of last year’s Toledo drinking water crisis, this year’s Lake Erie algae bloom is already growing fast.  While Toledo officials say they’re better prepared than last year, some local politicians say more needs to be done.

SCHAEFER:  Lake Erie Charter Boat Association president Paul Pacholski slows his boat near the Toledo water intake.  He points to a brilliant green scum floating on the water’s surface.

PACHOLSKI:  If you start looking at the water right now, you can see the harmful algal bloom, the microcystis starting to take hold.

SCHAEFER:  NOAA scientists have predicted this year’s now-persistent toxic algae bloom could rival the one in 2011, that stretched all the way from Toledo to Cleveland.  So far, wind patterns have kept the bloom from coming ashore and threatening drinking water.  But it already fills more than half of the western basin.  Cities like Toledo say they’re now much better prepared to treat the algae toxins. That’s due to investment in better treatment and detection systems, and new toxin

Ohio state representative Teresa Fedor

Ohio state representative Teresa Fedor, a Democrat from Toledo, says she wants more action from state officials on enforcement.. Image: Karen Schaefer

guidelines from the US EPA.  But Ohio state representative Teresa Fedor of Toledo says she’ll hold state officials’ feet to the fire, should this year’s bloom once  again poison her city’s drinking water.

FEDOR:  I am putting the governor and my colleagues on record right now, that if this happens this year, I don’t want to say I told you so, I want to say you need to get down to business.

SCHAEFER: Fedor wants Ohio to commit more funds and personnel to enforcement of pollution run-off from Northwest Ohio farms.

Support for Karen Schaefer’s public radio series is provided by the Ohio Sea Grant College Program at Ohio State University.

4 thoughts on “Lake Erie algae blooming fast

  1. Mike S, there is simply no question but that the major source of phosphorus coming into the Maumee River is from field runoff, not manure. First, there aren’t that many major dairy farms along the Maumee – and almost all of them are heavily regulated. Second, 30 years of water quality data from Heidelberg University support those findings. No one is blaming farmers…quite the reverse. Part of the problem is that in the 1980’s, the USDA urged Maumee farmers to try no-till ag – which resulted in fields where chemical fertilizers were spread on top of the soil and not incorporated – and unintended consequence of a good practice no one wants to abandon.

    It’s not just farmers, though. Manure, wastewater plants, and many other urban sources are now all under scrutiny and regulation. But the blooms normally start in Maumee Bay. So there’s no doubts about the source.

  2. Cy, Celina, Ohio has had major drinking water problems with microcystin over recent years. I’m not sure if they’ve been able to solve them yet. Here’s what it was like last year: http://www.circleofblue.org/waternews/2014/world/seven-ohio-drinking-water-sources-dont-meet-state-water-quality-standards-toxic-algae/

    There’s nothing here to be learned for Toledo, which has made major strides in updating its water treatment systems since last August. Rather, Celina has a lot to learn from Toledo.

  3. It’s easy to blame it all on the farmers. How about sewage treatment plants that haven’t been upgraded since the 70s. There’s a reason God made poop stink and that’s so people would avoid dumping in the well. Lessons not learned….

  4. CyRegarding Lake Erie and Toledo, why isn't anyone asking why Celina, OH never has problems with their drinking water treatment when they take from Grand Lake St. Marys where microcystin concentrations routinely soar above that which are found in Lake Er on said:

    Regarding Lake Erie and Toledo, why isn’t anyone asking why Celina, OH never has problems with their drinking water treatment when they take from Grand Lake St. Marys where microcystin concentrations routinely soar above that which are found in Lake Erie? What is Celina doing that Toledo isn’t?

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