A Rainy Spring May Spell Trouble For Lake Erie

Officials with the Ohio EPA take algae samples from Lake Erie.
Officials with the Ohio EPA take algae samples from Lake Erie.

In 2011 a species of blue green algae known as Microcystis exploded across Lake Erie.

The algae produces liver and nerve toxins which are harmful if ingested by humans or other animals.

It also contributes to dead zones in the lake where fish cannot survive.

Gail Hesse is with the Ohio Lake Erie Commission.

She says heavy spring rains precede such algal blooms, by increasing fertilizer runoff from farmland.

HESSE: It’s because of what’s running off the land and into the streams as a result of those Spring rains. It hits the ground, runs over the land and into the streams, and it’s what it picks up along the way that gets delivered into the western basin of Lake Erie.

Not only does algae impact sport fishing and tourism, Hesse says it’s also a problem for cities that depend on Erie as a source of drinking water.

HESSE: Public water supplies need to spend money for additional treatment. The city of Toledo, for example, will spend an additional $3-4,000/day for treatment when there is an algal bloom.

Late summer is usually when the bloom is at its worst; we’ll know more about what to expect this year, says Hesse, when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration puts out a detailed prediction in a couple months.

Anne Glausser, 90.3

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