Scientists say major algal bloom to develop in Lake Erie
In this Aug. 3, 2014, file photo, the City of Toledo water intake crib is surrounded by algae in Lake Erie, off the shore of Curtice, Ohio. (Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP Photo)
A significant algal bloom is expected to develop in western Lake Erie later this month, though it’s unlikely to impact the eastern part of the lake, which borders Pennsylvania.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, is predicting this year’s bloom will be a 7.5 level of severity out of ten. Last year’s bloom was a 3.6.
Lake Erie’s algal blooms, made up of cyanobacteria, can release a toxin that hurts the livers of people and animals. Last week, a bloom of algae caused 25 beaches in Mississippi to close due to concerns regarding human health.
Phosphorus is the nutrient that drives the blooms, and most of it comes from the Maumee River that runs through Toledo, according to director of the Ohio Sea Grant at Ohio State University Chris Winslow. Fertilizer and manure from farms are largely responsible for the phosphorus that feed the blooms.
“Typically it’s confined to the western basin, but that western basin is a huge body of water,” Winslow said. “The day to day location of the bloom is totally driven by wind speed and wind direction.”
This year’s bloom is expected to be so severe due to higher than average rainfall this spring.
Winslow said for the most part, the bloom should be concentrated west of Cleveland. However, it could move north toward Canada or west depending on wind.
“The second worst bloom on record was in 2011, and that bloom did eek its way east of Cleveland and towards Erie,” Winslow said.
The 2011 bloom had a severity index of 10 out of 10.