Another mild algae bloom forecast for Lake Erie this summer

Credit: CC0 Public DomainScientists predicted Wednesday that the toxic algae blob that transforms western Lake Erie into a horrible shade of green every summer and poses a threat to drinking water and fish, should be smaller this year.Researchers believe this will be the first occasion in over a decade that the Great Lakes' shallowest lakes will experience back-to-back years with relatively mild algae blooms. However, it is not yet a sign that the lake has turned the corner.They believe this is because the lack of heavy rainfalls, which typically wash chemical fertilizers and phosphorus-laden livestock manure off the fields and into the lakes where they feed the algae, has contributed to the positive outlook for the year."While this is great news, the concentrations of phosphorus remain the same as in recent years," Rick Stumpf, an Oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said. "Until we see a reduction in the concentrations of phosphorus, the next above-average year will see a greater bloom."Since 2014, more than 400,000 Toledo residents were unable to drink tap water due to algae toxins, Ohio's leaders are under increasing pressure to stop the blooms. Bis now, there has not been much progress.Republican Governor Mike DeWine, Republican Governor, is hoping to clean the lake with an ambitious 10-year plan that offers financial incentives to farmers to adopt new farming practices and create wetlands to filter and capture runoff from the fields.These efforts are only the beginning. States that are facing increasing numbers of algae outbreaks are closely monitoring the progress of this approach. While some environmental groups remain skeptical, others who have worked with the farming industry in the past are optimistic.NOAA has released a forecast for the summer. It predicts that the bloom will be at 3. This is a milder reading than last year. Any number above 5 is considered a severe bloom.Since 2008, the severity and frequency of algae outbreaks has increased. However, if the forecast is correct, three of the four previous years will score below 5 on the rating scale.According to Jordan Hoewischer (director of water quality research and Ohio Farm Bureau), farmers have increased the use of cover crops during this time.He said, "It doesn’t make sense to give all credit to the weather for years with a smaller bloom and to blame the farmers for years with a large bloom."Blue-green algae and cyanobacteria can cause liver toxin, microcystin, that can be harmful to humans and can even kill dogs. Even though the blooms are smaller, they can still cause dangerous toxins.NOAA and other U.S. agencies and Canadian agencies have set the goal to reduce the Lake Erie bloom from a 3 on their index.Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario in Canada have also pledged to decrease runoff of phosphorus up to 40% by 2025 compared with the 2015 level.Laura Johnson, the director of the National Center for Water Quality Research, Heidelberg University, Ohio, stated that measurements this year in the Maumee River which carries much the farm runoff from Ohio, Indiana, and into the lake show that there are still high levels of phosphorus.She said that the main difference is the fact that the river has been extremely dry which has reduced the flow of water.The blooms will not stop until a significant and sustained reduction in phosphorus levels in the agricultural heavy Maumee River river watershed is made, stated Don Scavia, a professor at the University of Michigan and member of the forecast team.He said, "We can't just hope for drier weather to keep us safe."Continue reading2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Without permission, this material may not be broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.