Lake Erie forecast: smaller algae bloom

Elias Hubbard
July 16, 2018

Last year's bloom was an 8.

Kasich and OH legislators have been considering tighter restrictions on farmers since the 2014 algae bloom caused Toledo to be without drinking water for three days.

He says that his clients monitor algae bloom forecasts and his business was off by 25 percent in 2017 and it could be worse in 2018.

But warmer water temperatures this year won't mean there will be a more severe bloom because the key factor is the amount of phosphorus that's in the lake, said Rick Stumpf, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Max Schaefer, regional director of the Ohio Environmental Council, said the bloom typically starts in August and continues to October and the administration examines data from earlier in the year to make its prediction. He says, there's a real simple reason they're predicting fewer and smaller algae blooms.

In order to decrease the impact of harmful algal blooms, scientist say we must see a drop in phosphorus entering Lake Erie's watershed.

The agency is developing tools to predict how toxic blooms will be.

This year, the western basin warmed nearly two weeks earlier than usual, reaching 70 degrees the last week of May, leading to the appearance of a small bloom.

Blooms have chronically reappeared in western Lake Erie annually since 1995 after a 20-year absence, a shift in water quality experts blame on poor agricultural land uses, climate change, invasive species, and other issues.

Algae forecasters used an ensemble of six different modelling techniques to shape this year's prediction, Stumpf said. The algae in 2012 and 2016 was relatively mild, he said. An outbreak in 2014 contaminated the tap water for two days for more than 400,000 people around Toledo.

Ohio's governor announced this week plans to increase regulations on farmers to reduce the fertilizer runoff that feeds the toxic algae. "There will be areas that'll be good, and right now they are good". I can't emphasize that enough.

The order directs a number of state agencies, including the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), to "initiate aggressive new action" toward further reduction of nutrient runoff from watersheds in Lake Erie's Western Basin.

Phosphorus runoff measured at the Maumee River sampling station near Waterville and other sites operated by Heidelberg is almost as high as past year, she said.

The summertime blooms turn the waters of the lake's western end into a pea soup color and are the cause of tainted drinking water, fish kills and beach closures.

He said the bloom cost OH millions of dollars in lost tourism and recreation value, as well as water-treatment costs.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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