Significant summer harmful algal bloom predicted for western Lake Erie

Significant summer harmful algal bloom predicted for western Lake Erie

Significant summer harmful algal bloom predicted for western Lake Erie

"We can estimate the biomass of the bloom, but we do not have the ability yet to forecast the toxicity", Stumpf said. It resulted from a rare combination of factors, including high levels of toxins generated by the bloom and its location near Toledo's offshore water intake facility, NOAA oceanographer Rick Stumpf said. A 2011 bloom reached that mark and a 2015 bloom exceeded it, registering a 10.5 as the biggest on record.

Still, the situation underscores the need to reduce the flow of nutrients into the lake that feed algae and similar bacteria, primarily from farms but also sewage treatment plants and other sources, Stumpf said. And when large algae blooms die, their decomposing rot can eat up much of the oxygen in the water, creating hypoxic dead zones where few living organisms can survive.

Western Lake Erie may see the third largest cyanobacterial bloom in the past 15 years this summer.

But he added that despite its anticipated size, "much of the lake will be algae-free throughout the bloom season and the lake remains a key asset". An estimated 85% of the phosphorus entering Lake Erie from the Maumee River comes from agricultural sources. "Southwest winds, you may not see it here in Ohio".

This summer, for the first time, NOAA will track the algal blooms with a new weather satellite, Sentinel-3, that will beam back to Earth a more accurate picture, providing the power to detect blooms one-tenth the size of blooms previously detected, Stumpf said. No blooms have been detected yet this summer, and are not expected to begin growing until later in the month or early in August.

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Environmental groups quickly weighed-in on the forecast Thursday, issuing their own predictions of gloom for the summer.

Chris Winslow, the director of the Ohio Sea Grant College Program, says heavy rains have washed large amounts of phosphorus into Lake Erie. Officials cite improvements in wastewater treatment and reform of farming practices, such as avoiding applying manure on frozen or saturated fields.

Michigan, Ohio and the Canadian province of Ontario have agreed to cut phosphorus going into the lake by 40 percent over the next decade. Most of the lake is not expected to be affected, according to Ohio Sea Grant. "The millions of Ohioans who rely on the lake can't afford to lose important resources like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative as they face the threat of algal blooms". "Although great progress has been made to reduce blooms in the Great Lakes, NOAA's prediction of a significant bloom this summer highlights the need to ensure programs like the Great Lake Restoration Initiative are fully funded so that we can continue to protect the Great Lakes".

Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, said: "NOAA's forecasting is critically important to help prepare for and mitigate the impacts of harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie".

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