NOAA researchers predict that Lake Erie Western Basin would be affected by the worst toxic algae bloom in four years. If the predictions are accurate, this year’s bloom in the area would be the second-worst after the 2011 bloom, scientists suggest.
The team explained that the heavy rains recorded last month brought runoffs filled with vital nutrients to the lake’s basin. The blue and green algae were the ones to benefit most from the event and now they are growing at an alarming rate.
Heavy rainfalls moved important amounts of phosphorous from ground to the lake thus feeding the bloom. Phosphorus is heavily used in agribusiness as a common fertilizer. In June, in Windsor, Ontario, alone there were more than 200 mm of rain, pushing the region to break the month’s record for rainfall.
Researchers usually assess the algae blooms’ severity by looking at a 0 to 10 scale. In 2011, the bloom was measured 10 on the severity scale, making it the worst on record. But any bloom that goes past 5.0 is concerning.
For this year, scientists estimate that the blue green algae bloom in Lake Erie will measure on average 8.7. But it is likely to reach 9.5 by September. In 2014, the bloom’s severity was rated 6.5. Yet, this year’s bloom may exceed the one in 2013 which was the second most severe in a century.
“While we are forecasting a severe bloom, much of the lake will be fine most of the time.”
said Richard Stumpf, the head of the NOAA team that had made the predictions.
Mr. Stumpf argued that the bloom would be influenced by winds, would start in July from west and stretch to east, and it is expected to reach its peak in September.
Algae blooms are especially pesky because municipalities have to spend more on treating drinking water, swimmers are at risk of getting entangled and even drowning in high concentration areas, while boaters find it very hard to steer their boats on lakes loaded with algae.
Moreover blue green algae release toxic compounds in the lake that may reach groundwater and poison drinking water. Swimmers or people that drink water contaminated with the algae toxins can develop gastroenteritis, skin rashes, and allergies, the C.D.C warns.
Additionally, too many algae can make places smell very bad, clog motors of boats, and even deprive some areas from vital oxygen making it impossible for other aquatic life forms to survive.
Image Source: Dispatch