© 2022 MICHIGAN RADIO
91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Toxic bacteria produces record levels of scum this year

An aerial view of algae blooms in Lake Erie.
NOAA DERIVED IMAGE FROM EUMETSAT COPERNICUS SENTINEL-3A SATELLITE DAT
/
NOAA

Scientists say a toxic bacteria bloom in Lake Erie this past summer was the largest on record, and produced a thick scum so big it could almost cover New York City.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the outbreak surpassed the record-setting bloom in 2011 that stretched from Toledo to Cleveland.

Sandy Bihn is with Lake Erie Waterkeeper Inc. 

She says states bordering Lake Erie have to dramatically reduce the amount of phosphorus getting into the lake.

Phosphorus is a nutrient that helps cyanobacteria grow.

Lake Erie is an indicator for all the Great Lakes," says Bihn. "It's kind of the canary in the coal mine. We have to reduce the sources (of phosphorus) and make sure it doesn't happen to the other lakes."

Toxins from a much smaller bloom in 2014 contaminated the tap water for 400,000 people in the Toledo area.
 

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.