Toledo’s Lake Erie at Risk of Second Toxic Algae Outbreak

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Preventing heart diseaseLake Erie in Toledo, Ohio, is at risk of being infested with toxic algae, according to scientists. They believe this could be one of the worst outbreaks this summer, similar to the one last year that interfered with the supply of safe water to 400,000 people.

Although this recent outbreak hasn’t yet affected Toledo’s drinking water, the risk is very real, as the algae are already quickly spreading around the region’s water intake piping on Lake Erie. “If we lose clean drinking water, our region loses everything,” warned Joel Brammeier, president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

On the plus side, Toledo has not yet seen evidence of the toxic Microcystis this summer—this is the type of algae that prompted the widespread water advisory in August last year. The algae are believed to thrive off the nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients from the agricultural runoff in the area, especially when these factors are combined with the warmer temperatures and sunlight that hit the relatively shallow portions of the lake.

Scientists working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have already announced that they predict this summer to be one of the worst for harmful algae on the western part of Lake Erie—this is due in part to the heavy rains this past June, which increased the runoff (and its nutrients) into the lake’s basin.

In the past year, Toledo has employed better communications plans for improving water conditions, as well as better treatment for the lake water that’s coming into facilities. However, more work still needs to be done to actually achieve these goals, including more accurate data on the sources that are really causing the toxic algae problem.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Matheny, K., “Another toxic algae outbreak feared for Lake Erie,” USA Today web site, July 30, 2015; http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/07/30/another-toxic-algae-outbreak-feared-lake-erie/30916703/.

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