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Federal grant set to improve monitoring of algae blooms in Lake Erie

Jul 25, 2018

A cyanobacterial bloom on Lake Erie in 2013. With the money from the new federal grant, the system for collecting data on harmful algae blooms will be improved.
Credit Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell announced Tuesday that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is giving a grant of $585,702 to the Great Lakes Observing System. The money will go toward improving the collection and sharing of data on early signs of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in Lake Erie.

Congresswoman Dingell represents Michigan's 12th district, which shares a border with Lake Erie.

“To all of the states that the Great Lakes touch, the Great Lakes are a way of life,” Dingell says. “And we all have an important responsibility to protect these waters, keep them safe and clean for future generations. We’ve had a significant problem over the years where Lake Erie has been experiencing a growing threat from harmful algal blooms.”

Sewage and agricultural runoff into Lake Erie has been an issue for decades; the Cuyahoga River, which feeds into the lake, famously caught fire in 1969 as a result of the pollution. Lake Erie’s health improved after the Clean Water Act passed in 1972, but the lake has experienced rising severity of algae blooms in more recent years; water carrying algal toxins shut down Toledo's water supply for three days in 2014.

HABs in Lake Erie have resulted in closing beaches, disrupting the Great Lakes economy, harming the environment, and threatening human health.

Dingell says she has been working with Ohio congresswoman Marcy Kaptur to urge the EPA to help clean up Lake Erie. She says the lake is being polluted by excessive phosphorous runoff, which is causing these algae blooms. 

The recipient of the grant, the Great Lakes Observing System, helps connect a network of organizations that are monitoring Lake Erie in the region. The grant money will go toward helping these groups share their environmental data, recognize early signs of algae blooms, and distribute the data to the proper water treatment facilities and public officials.

Dingell says sharing that data allows for better management of the water.

“The best way for us to mitigate HABs is to monitor the water so we can take steps early to clean up the water and protect the health of the residents.”