Severe Algae Blooms Predicted for Lake Erie

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Researchers are warning that another big harmful algae bloom will spread across western Lake Erie later this summer.
     
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released its annual algae forecast for Lake Erie and rated it a 7.5 out of a 10 on its index, which means it will be much more severe than 2018.

The severity could range from 6 to 9 on the scale and has the potential to be one of the worst blooms since 2015.

Speaking on AM800's the Afternoon News, Policy Director for the Alliance for the Great Lakes, Crystal Davis says you don't have to look far back in history to see the detrimental impacts.

"We know that this year is the 5th anniversary of the Toledo water crisis, so there are still folks that are dealing with the trauma that happened five years with the algae blooms that happened in the western basin of  Lake Erie," she says.

In 2014, the City of Toledo issued a “Do Not Drink" advisory tests detected algae in the drinking water plant's finished water, impacting around 500,000 residents.

Scientists project that this year's bloom is likely to be among the five largest since they began ranking them going back to 2002.

Davis calls the ranking a bit disappointing.

"We were hoping that the forecast would be a little bit better but we also know that due to weather conditions and not a lot of progress on changing farming conditions, there is a 7.5 this year," she says.

The main cause of the blooms is phosphorus runoff from agricultural lands.

Davis says the fall planting season in 2018 was down because of heavy rains which means there was less fertilizer used.

"That's a clear indicator that changes in agricultural practices make pretty immediate changes to the lake composition and so we know that if we really got serious about changing agricultural practices we can impact the lake and definitely lessen these blooms," she says.

Davis adds that heavy rains this spring and earlier this summer are helping to fuel the large bloom of potentially toxic algae.