Harmful algae already detected in Lake Erie and it’s expected to be a bad year

So far only the western basin is impacted but it’s expected to move.

Harmful algae already detected in Lake Erie and it’s expected to be a bad year
According to the National Weather Service, 2019 algal blooms on Lake Erie are expected come close to matching record levels set in 2011 and 2015. (Source: Pixabay)

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) -The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its first bulletin of the season that picked up on a cyanobacteria, or harmful algal bloom, in Lake Erie this week.

Commonly referred to as a blue-green algal bloom, the toxins produced by the algae can be harmful to humans and animals and can cause liver damage.

NOAA, using satellites and water testing, picked up on the bloom which so far is only in the western basin near Toledo.

This satellite image from NOAA shows the beginning stages of a harmful algal bloom (in blue) in the western basin of Lake Erie.
This satellite image from NOAA shows the beginning stages of a harmful algal bloom (in blue) in the western basin of Lake Erie. (Source: NOAA)

“Cyanobacteria is present in Lake Erie’s western basin, touching the shore line of Maumee State Park and extending 6 miles off shore from Maumee Bay,” the bulletin advised.

While this is a little earlier than normal, the good news is after testing the water experts say the cyanobacteria was not detected.

“Given that there has been wet weather this spring, bringing a lot of nutrients into the western basin from the Maumee River, and the temperature is now suitable for cyanobacterial growth, I would expect the harmful algal bloom to grow over the coming weeks,” according to Mark Rowe, a Research Physical Scientist with NOAA. “Typically, the bloom starts to appear in early to mid July."

Earlier in the spring NOAA put out a forecast and said the 2019 algal bloom will be among the worst years we’ve had in recent years because of heavy amounts of spring rain.

With wind and currents NOAA predicts the current bloom will drift and make its way just west of the Lake Erie Islands by July 4.

This image is a July 4, prediction of the algal bloom dissipating and moving west toward the Lake Erie Islands.
This image is a July 4, prediction of the algal bloom dissipating and moving west toward the Lake Erie Islands.

“The harmful algal bloom has only reached Cleveland on rare occasions,” Rowe said. “For example, in October 2011, winds increased and pushed the bloom out of the western basin into the central basin near Cleveland, although mostly offshore of Cleveland.”

To check safe water conditions NOAA advises boaters and swimmers to use this the Ohio DOH “Beach Guard.”

“Lake Erie is a valuable recreational resource, and it is relatively rare for algal toxins to exceed contact guidelines, but it does happen in certain places and times during blooms,” Rowe said. “In general, it is a good idea to avoid contact with visible scums.”

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