Late-Summer Algae Bloom Threat Stirring Concern Along Lake Erie

click to enlarge Algae blooms are growing in Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie (right) - NASA
Algae blooms are growing in Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie (right)
It's that time of year when those of us along the north shore begin eyeing the lake with concern and reading through the incessant drone of "algae bloom" headlines — like this one you just clicked.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted that this year's algae growth in Lake Erie could rival 2011's record-setting severity. Historically, the water hazards mostly affect western Lake Erie — Toledo and thereabouts — but the annual bloom and its effects should be heeded by all in the region.

Algae in Lake Erie flourish on nutrients often accrued through agricultural runoff, as well as sunlight and warm water temperature, according to NASA. As the blooms grow in density, fish species can die off and local governments must contend with quickly diminished access to clean drinking water. (See: Toledo last year.)

click to enlarge Maumee Bay State Park, August 2014 - ERIC SANDY
Maumee Bay State Park, August 2014
Scientists have been saying that these annual blooms will likely get worse each year, barring tighter state regulations on the agricultural industry, from which some 10,000 tons of phosphorus flow into freshwater of Lake Erie each year.

Ohio farmers began receiving a five-year, $12.25 million disbursement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture this year to begin honing their conservation chops and slowing down the runaway runoff practices. In April, a new law went into effect in Ohio, prohibiting farmers from applying fertilizer to frozen fields, which is expected to cut down on runoff. 

Those are longer-term solutions to the root problem, and Ohio has been duly lauded for those beginnings, but local and state officials are still left with this year's bloom.

The most recent reports out of Toledo maintain that the water is safe to drink, but that city analysts will be watching toxin levels quite closely.

About The Author

Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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