Toxic Algae

Bottles of Lake Erie water are tested in a lab.
Brian Bull / WCPN

Researchers at the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) say they’ve begun testing water samples with the latest technology, following last summer’s water shutdown in Toledo.

Hundreds of swimmers will soon take to the lake as the weather warms up. And some swimmers will perhaps pause to ask: “How clean is the water? Are there contaminants, pollutants? Is there a risk of blue-green algae?”

Ohio Getting Over $4M To Fight Toxic Algae In Lake Erie

Mar 30, 2015
Satellite view of toxic algal bloom on Lake Erie
NASA Earth Observatory

The money will come from the federal the Great Lakes Restoration fund and go toward projects in the Maumee River watershed and the Sandusky River watershed in northwestern Ohio.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency says much of the money will toward preventing phosphorus from getting into the lake and fueling the algae.

Some will be used to fund projects that will take cropland out of production, install field runoff retention systems and restore six miles of stream channels to their natural habitat.

Farm Bureau Wants to Avoid Unintended Consequences with Water Quality Proposals

Feb 4, 2015
Satellite view of toxic algal bloom on Lake Erie
NASA Earth Observatory

Gov. John Kasich included cleaning up Lake Erie as a priority in his two-year budget proposal, and farmers seem ready to work with the governor—to a point.

To reduce the amount of harmful algae growth in Lake Erie and other public waterways, the governor’s office proposes banning the use of manure on frozen or rain-saturated farmland, among other measures.

Satellite view of toxic algal bloom on Lake Erie
NASA Earth Observatory

Toxic blue-green algae blooms, or cyanobacteria, are a growing problem in Ohio’s lakes, and grabbed the attention of the whole country after the bacteria shut down Toledo’s water system last summer.

US Gives $3.1 Million For Lake Erie Algae Projects

Dec 18, 2014
Satellite view of toxic algal bloom on Lake Erie
NASA Earth Observatory

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is allocating $3.1 million from a Great Lakes cleanup fund for efforts to reduce harmful algae blooms in Lake Erie that hit water supplies in Michigan and Ohio.

The money will be divided among three federal agencies and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

EPA regional chief Susan Hedman says some of the projects will improve water quality testing and algae bloom forecasting. Others will expand financial assistance for agricultural conservation practices in the western Lake Erie Basin.

Satellite view of toxic algal bloom on Lake Erie
NASA Earth Observatory

Ohio lawmakers are preparing to go back to work and take on more pieces of legislation before the year ends. One of those issues includes improving water quality.

While speaking at a post-election conference, Republican Representative Dave Hall of Millersburg says that he doesn’t want to waste any time. The agriculture and natural resources committee he chairs will hold hearings next week on a bill that tackles many different issues including toxic algae problems.

Senator Sherrod Brown (right) compared algae-filled water with clear water on a recent visit to Stone Lab on Lake Erie. Researcher Justin Chaffin is on the left.
Lewis Wallace / WYSO

Ohio’s U.S. Senators have introduced two bills that address the problems with toxic microcystins, a result of the bacteria known as blue-green algae, in the state’s waters. Toxins from algal blooms in Lake Erie caused a two-day shutdown of Toledo’s water system in August, and algal blooms have been reported in lakes around the state including Grand Lake St. Mary’s and Buckeye Lake.

Collin O'Mara, President of the National Wildlife Federation, held up a glass of algae-filled water from Lake Erie after the toxins produced by the algae shut down Toledo's water system.
National Wildlife Federation Staff

Nothing brings consensus like a crisis. During Toledo’s recent drinking-water ban, conflicting ideas about how to test for toxins caused confusion for decision-makers, and hat problem sparked rare, swift action by multiple layers of government to create a uniform, statewide protocol.

Algae Toxin Prompts Warning At Southwest Ohio Lake

Jun 24, 2014

BATAVIA, Ohio (AP) - An advisory has been issued for swimmers at East Fork Lake in southwest Ohio because of a toxin produced by blue-green algae.

The advisory recommends that visitors who are very young, elderly or have compromised immune systems avoid swimming or wading at the lake in Clermont County, east of Cincinnati. The advisory issued Monday applies to the main beach and the campground beach.

Officials say state testing there found the toxin in concentrations higher than the levels at which it has been shown to affect the liver.

Satellite view of toxic algal bloom on Lake Erie
NASA Earth Observatory

Algal blooms are once again causing problems for lakes and streams in Ohio this summer. But farmers are combating the situation, and so far, they’re getting some help from the weather.

When rain falls on farm fields that have been treated with fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorus, whatever chemicals haven't soaked deep enough into the soil, or made their way into the crops, can end up in nearby streams and lakes. That runoff is feeding nutrients to harmful algal blooms. 

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