Toxic algal bloom expected to be bad this summer in Lake Erie

New interactive website tracks reports of harmful blooms.
Updated: Jun. 11, 2019 at 3:09 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) -The National Weather Service (NWS) has put out a prediction for harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie this year and there is an indication it will be a bad year.

The size of the algal bloom is dependent on how much fertilizer and manure is washed off of farm fields and into lakes and rivers.

The algae feeds on that run off.

Because this spring has been extremely rainy experts fear the toxic blooms could be large especially in the western basin of Lake Erie.

According to the NWS the worst years for blooms in Lake Erie were in 2011 and 2015 when the severity index was 10 and 10.5 respectively.

The National Weather Service is predicting 2019 could be as severe as 2011 and 2015.
The National Weather Service is predicting 2019 could be as severe as 2011 and 2015.(Source: National Weather Service)

2019 algal bloom is expected to be in the range of 7 to 10 in severity.

In 2018 the bloom reached 3.6.

“We’ve found in our research that most people don’t realize that algae blooms are a nationwide problem,” Anne Weir Schechinger said who is a senior economic analyst for the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

“There’s more awareness now of the annual Lake Erie algae bloom, as well as the ongoing algae and red tide issues in Florida, but many people don’t know that algae outbreaks occur across the country, potentially impacting millions of people.”

The concern is for people who swim in lakes and rivers with blooms, and communities who use the lake for drinking water.

“Treating drinking water for algae toxins is extremely expensive, but many of the cities struggling with them cannot afford tens of millions of dollars for new water treatment systems,” according to and EWG article on blue-green algae.

The EWG has launched the first of its kind website, tracking media stories on blooms since 2010.

“Between 2010 and May 2019, 550 algae blooms were reported in waterways in 47 states. Last year, the 256 outbreaks in 39 states were more than twice the number reported in 2017,” according to the EWG.

“There are definitely more algae blooms that occur each year than there are media reports, so we consider these numbers to be an underestimate of bloom occurrence,” Weir Schechinger said.

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