WARNING: Toxic Algae
By: Emma Smith
Ohio has struggled with green algae for decades now but the danger that the algae is causing has reached a new high.
And now the algae that killed three dogs in North Carolina after swimming in lakes infested with algae has been found here in Ohio.
Cincinnati.com reports two Ohio beaches are on an elevated advisory including Lake Erie at Maumee Bay State park. It last tested positive for Blue-green algae at an elevated advisory on Aug. 5.
Dr. Yanting Guo, an assistant professor of Environment, Safety, and Occupational Health Management at the University of Findlay, says the algae has been an issue for decades.
“The algae bloom has been an issue in Ohio lakes since the 1970s. Throughout that time, there have been many different plans put in place to try to minimize this issue,” said Guo. In the 70s, the fish started dying off due to the large amount of algae. What we are seeing now is the recurrence of a nutrient overload from the runoff from the farm field that is now creating an environment where algae are able to bloom fast and in large quantities.”
Not only are the algae dangerous to animals, but it can make adults and children very sick by attacking the digestive system, like the liver and kidney. People are being advised to pay attention to the water and stay out of water that appear to have an algae bloom (covered in the green-blue algae).
One main perpetrator of the spreading of green-blue algae are farmers. Farmers use several different chemicals for fertilizer. With those chemicals, along with manure, it can cause a breakout of cyanobacteria, especially if there is a run-off into the water. Cyanobacteria is the scientific name for green-blue algae, from ewg.org. It is an environmental hazard, but it is also the way farmers make sure their crops will grow. The current plan is to create a relationship between the farmers and the ESOH researchers to find a way to project the water from the nitrogen runoff without putting the farmers livelihood in jeopardy.
“This may cause some friction between the two, so a compromise will certainly have to be made,” Guo said.
As scientists work to minimize the number of toxic algae found in the lakes in America, each state has different ways to warn people that the lake is not safe to swim in. A Recreational Public Health Advisory sign will be orange and warns children, pregnant women, pets and others with certain medical conditions against swimming and wading due to algae bloom detected. If you spot a red sign, this means that there is an Elevated Recreational Public Health Advisory. This means that toxic algae has been detected at highly unsafe levels and all contact with water should be avoided.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced a water quality initiative called H2Ohio several months ago at an event in Toledo. The fund is an investment “in targeted, long-term solutions to ensure clean and safe water in Lake Erie and throughout Ohio,” according to h2.ohio.gov. The program will provide funds to establish Water-based restoration programs, land-based management programs, and ongoing research to better the state of Ohio’s lakes and drinking water.