Great Lakes / Lake Erie

Miles of algae covering Lake Erie

A potentially harmful algae bloom covered more than 700 square miles in the western basin of Lake Erie last week, turning the lake bright green and alarming residents and local officials. Source: Landsat 8

TOLEDO — “Scientists say that algae blooms have been a growing problem for Lake Erie since the 2000s, mostly because of the extensive use of fertilizer on the region’s farmland.

The algae blooms contain cyanobacteria, which, under certain conditions, can produce toxins that contaminate drinking water and cause harm to the local ecosystem.

During last week’s bloom, the amount of toxins in the algae remained low at the intake points where towns draw water from the lake, according to officials.

…While not all algae blooms are toxic, they can produce a type of toxin called microcystis that can cause serious liver damage under certain conditions. Dangerous levels of the toxin caused Toledo, Ohio, to shut down the drinking water supply of a half-million residents for three days in 2014.

In total, almost 3 million people get drinking water from the central basin of Lake Erie. Officials have been testing the intake points in the lake where towns draw water and report that the current toxin levels are low.”

— Jugal K. Patel and Yuliya Parshina-Kottas, New York Times

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