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cyanobacteria

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Four years ago, the city of Toledo told more than 450,000 residents to immediately stop drinking water out of the tap. 

That's after a toxin called microcystin was detected in the water. The toxin came from a bloom of cyanobacteria that had surrounded the city's water intake in Lake Erie. 

The incident caused panic among some residents, hoarding of water, even fights at bottled water distribution sites - along with a lot of unwanted national media attention.

And it taught the city some hard lessons.

What happens to the water Toledo takes from Lake Erie

Municipal water treatment is a painstaking and complicated process.

Issues & Ale: Seeing Green in Lake Erie
Mon, August 20, 6:30-8:00 PM

Black Cloister Brewing Company
619 Monroe St, Toledo, OH 43604

In the summer of 2014, toxic bacteria in Lake Erie forced some 400,000 people in the Toledo area (including several communities in southeast Michigan) to stop bathing in or drinking their tap water. Although the past few years have not been as bad, farm runoff and other factors have led to toxic cyanobacteria blooms in western Lake Erie every summer since then. Will voluntary farm restrictions be enough to solve this problem and if not, what else needs to be done?

green liquid in petri dish
Danny Ducat

Look around you. Chances are – wherever you are – you can see something that’s plastic.

Credit: NOAA derived image from EUMETSAT Copernicus Sentinel-3a satellite dat / NOAA

Researchers with Ohio Sea Grant and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) say cyanobacterial blooms in Lake Erie will likely be smaller than last year.

The forecast relies on satellite imaging and computer models to predict the toxic blooms every summer. 

Christopher Winslow, Director of the Ohio Sea Grant College Program, says this summer's prediction is about 6 on a scale of 10. 

Bill Braunlich

What happens if your dog likes to swim in the lake, but there might be toxins in the water?

It can happen in a local lake or somewhere like the western basin of Lake Erie. Toxin-producing cyanobacteria appear. Some people still call it blue-green algae.

cmh2315fl / FLICKR - HTTP//J.MP/1SPGCL0

The city of Toledo, Ohio and its suburbs are arguing about how to properly charge for water. The disagreement stems from the 2014 toxic cyanobacteria bloom in Lake Erie that shut down of the city's water system.

Sarah Elms, a reporter with The Toledo Blade, joined Stateside to explain what's happening. 

This photo of Microcystis, a kind of cyanobacteria, was taken in Lake Erie.
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

We’re coming up on the time of year when people will be testing lakes for toxic blooms of cyanobacteria.

Jason Deglint wants to speed up that testing process. Right now, he says it can take at least a few days.

Are farmers' profits more important than our water?

May 1, 2018
An aerial view of algae blooms in Lake Erie.
NOAA

Last week, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency announced that efforts to decrease those potentially toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie aren’t working. When I read that, let’s say I wasn’t exactly surprised. I moderated a large forum on this subject in Tontogany, Ohio last year.

The Ford Taurus at an auto show
Dave Pinter / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Ford this week announced plans to stop making almost its entire line-up of cars by 2022. That means we can say farewell to the Fiesta, the Taurus, the Focus, the Fusion, and the C-Max hybrid. Only Ford's iconic Mustang and a small crossover will remain in production in the North American market. 

This Week in Review, Weekend Edition host Rebecca Kruth and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry discuss Ford's decision to focus on its better-selling lines of trucks and SUVs, and whether GM might follow suit.

A picture of a dock and water with Cyanobacteria (a green film)
NOAA, GLERL

A new report from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency says that despite billions spent in the Lake Erie watershed to improve water quality, there has been no clear trend of reducing phosphorus levels in the state’s watersheds.

 

Runoff of nutrients, mainly phosphorous, from agriculture have been blamed for a series of toxic cyanobacteria blooms in Lake Erie. Ohio has spent more than $3 billion to improve the Lake Erie watershed since 2011.

 

The Great Lakes, the budget, and you

Mar 26, 2018
satellite map of Michigan, the Great Lakes
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Congress passed a budget that gets us through the summer, Donald Trump has signed it, and it contains good news for all of us. For one thing, it means we have again dodged a government shutdown, at least till September.

For another, for the second year in a row, Congress has mostly reversed all the bad things the Trump administration wanted to do to Michigan. That would have included eliminating funds to protect the nation’s most important source of fresh water, a $300 million dollar program called the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

A cyanobacterial bloom on Lake Erie in 2013.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

An advisory board with the International Joint Commission says the U.S. and Canada should do more to keep nutrient pollution out of Lake Erie.

Waves on Lake Michigan.
Nathaniel May / UM

Scientists have found organic matter from toxic blooms in the Great Lakes can get airborne.

Andrew Ault is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, in the departments of environmental health sciences and chemistry. He’s an author of a new study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

“Anytime a wave breaks on the ocean or in a lake, you push bubbles below the surface. When those come up, they burst and that bursting process essentially, ends up leading to aerosols being formed,” he says.

NOAA

 A new report finds governments are not making “sufficient progress” toward insuring the “drinkability, swimmability and fishability of the Great Lakes.”

The report, entitled the First Triennial Assessment of Progress on the Great Lakes, comes from the International Joint Commission, or IJC.   The IJC is a bi-national organization created under the Boundary Water Treaty of 1909.

The triennial assessment released today was required under a 2012 agreement.

The report finds not enough progress in reducing pollutants, including phosphorus which is creating cyanobacteria blooms in Lake Erie.  A bloom three years ago forced Toledo to shut off its water for two days.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - Ohio has come out with an updated plan to sharply reduce what's making algae flourish in Lake Erie, but some environmental groups say the strategy lacks direction about what to do next.

  The plan is designed to lay out how Ohio intends to reach its goal of making a 40 percent reduction of phosphorus within the next eight years.

  Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario along with Ohio signed a deal two years ago agreeing to make steep cuts of the phosphorus that sparked large algae outbreaks in recent years.

Jeff Reutter / Ohio State University

Drive just a few miles south of the Ohio border, and you’ll find yourself on a bridge over the Maumee River, which runs through downtown Toledo on its way to Lake Erie.

Right now, the river is an oddly beautiful emerald green, as if it had been dyed to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day six months early. Except it isn’t dye, it’s algae. The Maumee flows into Lake Erie, which has been hit with one of the largest algal blooms on record, one that stretches all the way to Canada, as well as for many miles west.

And any thoughts about how beautiful this all is are likely to be driven away the moment you encounter the horrible dank sewage smell, or notice the dying fish on the shoreline.

eutrophication&hypoxia / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

If you’ve been on social media the past 24 hours, you might have noticed photos trending of what looks like the Chicago River on St. Patrick’s Day.

But nobody will be dying that river for another six months, and this river isn’t in Illinois.

A picture of a dock and water with Cyanobacteria (a green film)
NOAA, GLERL

A stretch of the Maumee River that runs through Toledo, Ohio has turned vivid green thanks to a bloom of cyanobacteria.

The Toledo-Lucas County Health Department is advising people to avoid swimming or otherwise exposing themselves to contact with the water.

A cyanobacterial bloom on Lake Erie in 2013.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

There’s a green bloom of cyanobacteria on Lake Erie again. People who run water utilities and scientists are watching the bloom because the cyanobacteria can produce toxins called microcystins that are dangerous for people and pets. It's what made Toledo’s drinking water unsafe to drink in 2014.

Chris Winslow directs Ohio Sea Grant and Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory. He says the bloom’s covering about 10% of the western basin.

a picture of the lab in a can
NOAA GLERL

There are concerns that Lake Erie will experience the same kind of toxic cyanobacteria blooms this summer that caused Toledo’s water supply to be shut off three years ago.

Reseachers monitor Lake Erie to detect cyanobacteria blooms as early as possible, but it takes time to go out, gather samples, and then bring them back to the lab for analysis.

This year, however, a “lab in a can” is giving researchers a hand. 

dock surrounded by green water
Todd Marsee / Michigan Sea Grant

The same toxic bacterial blooms that shut down Toledo's drinking water system are a problem in Michigan's inland lakes too. New research suggests treating and preventing them may take a more comprehensive approach than is currently used for most inland lakes.

A cyanobacterial bloom on Lake Erie in 2013.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A robotic underwater laboratory has been deployed in Lake Erie to detect toxins produced by harmful algae that threaten city water supplies.

The project is intended to prevent recurrence of a 2014 tap water contamination crisis that prompted a do-not-drink order for more than 400,000 residents of Toledo, Ohio, and southeastern Michigan.

The device is positioned on the lake bottom, where it can provide about one day's notice if highly toxic water drifts toward the Toledo intake system.

The federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative paid $375,000 for the lab.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

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

The Lake Erie forecast was released Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which funds the research.

Cyanobacteria is fed by runoff from farmers’ fields and urban sources.

This photo of Microcystis, a kind of cyanobacteria, was taken in Lake Erie.
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Michigan has a draft plan ready for public comment on how it will help keep phosphorus out of Lake Erie.

All Great Lakes states will come up with their own plan.  Those plans will become part of an EPA-led strategy to fight harmful cyanobacteria, which thrives on the high loads of phosphorus flowing into Lake Erie.

Jim Johnson is Director of the Environmental Stewardship Division of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. 

A small sample of the thick, bacteria-ridden algae spreading across Lake Erie
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

It's been three years since toxic blooms on Lake Erie contaminated the tap water in Toledo and forced the city to shut down its water supply for several days. Now, a new study says a virus may have played a role in the crisis.

Saving Lake Erie

Apr 27, 2017
A cyanobacterial bloom on Lake Erie in 2013.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

There’s a little-noticed battle going on across the region to save Lake Erie. Now, I know this story can’t possibly compare in interest or importance to a bunch of football players visiting Rome, or which politician might run for something next year.

Jeff Reutter / Ohio State University

The Michigan Agri-Business Association, a trade group representing agricultural interests, is launching a campaign to educate farmers about best practices to keep chemical fertilizers and manure from flowing into streams and rivers that lead into Lake Erie.

The fertilizers and manure contain nutrients that encourage the growth of toxic cyanobacteria. 

EPA cuts would drain the future of Lake Erie

Mar 22, 2017
A cyanobacterial bloom on Lake Erie in 2013.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Last night I drove almost a hundred miles into Ohio to preside over a discussion with huge implications for Michigan. The topic was the future of Lake Erie, the warmest and shallowest of the Great Lakes and a major source of drinking water for 11 million people.

A lighthouse on Pelee Island in Lake Erie.
Richard Hsu / Flickr

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a health advisory for microcystin. That’s the toxin that shut down Toledo’s drinking water supply in 2014.

It’s released by a kind of cyanobacteria that’s been forming on Lake Erie every year, and it can hurt your liver.

mark brush / Michigan Radio

Ohio State University researchers say the public is willing to pay part of the price to address Lake Erie’s cyanobacteria problem.  

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