'Significant' harmful algae bloom predicted to form in Lake Erie


A significant algae bloom is expected to form in Lake Erie this summer, scientists say.

"This is a significant problem affecting two countries and millions of people who rely on Lake Erie for drinking water and enjoyment of everything it has to offer".

Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and research partners released its algae forecast, predicting that the bloom could be potentially harmful.

According to NOAA, the algae bloom will most likely appear in late July and early August. The largest blooms since the problem returned to Lake Erie in the late 1990s, in 2011 and 2015, were 10 and 10.5, respectively, on the severity index.

May's heavy rainfall, which caused more nutrient runoff from agricultural land, is the primary culprit, says the National Centre for Research Quality based in Ann Arbor, Mich. That fertilizer, combined with sunlight and the relatively shallow western Erie basin, has in recent years led to widespread algal bloom outbreaks.

He declined to predict the potential danger of the bloom. The toxins in a large bloom may not be as concentrated, they said.

Harmful algae blooms are triggered when a lot of phosphorus is carried along streams and rivers to Lake Erie.

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A large algae bloom doesn't necessarily mean the microcystin water problem is again imminent, said University of MI aquatic ecologist Don Scavia, a member of the forecast team, in a release. Even so, the answer to the problem can not be to cross our fingers and hope that seasonal fluctuations in weather will keep us safe.

The Lake Erie bloom is predicted to measure 7.5 on the severity index but could range between 6.5 and 9, researchers said.

This year's algae bloom could be one of the biggest on record. The amount of rain, and when it occurs. "If there's a Northeast wind, OH has a problem", Stumpf said.

Several hot spots for algae blooms on Lake Erie created a crisis in 2014 when toxins produced by the green-coloured scum contaminated the drinking water source for 400,000 people in the area of Toledo, Ohio, and Monroe, Mich.

The rainy weather in May is a factor in the relatively high spring phosphorus load into the lake, researchers said. Its toxicity caught the city's water treatment plant off guard - but Stumpf says the plant will be able to handle toxic algae should it reach the water intake this summer. "And if you have a dog, keep it out of the water".

Manure and fertilizers are the main sources of the risky runoff into the lake that during the dog days of summer causes algae to thrive.

"The governments of Canada and the United States, along with Michigan, Ohio and Ontario, need to do much more to solve the problem", Nancy Goucher, manager of partnerships for Freshwater Future, said in a statement released by several environmental groups. A major part of the plan is to "encourage" better farming practices, such as avoiding applying manure on frozen or saturated fields.