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'Significant' bloom expected in western Lake Erie for the next few months

Jul 13, 2017

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.

Chris Winslow, the director of the Ohio Sea Grant College Program, says heavy rains have washed large amounts of phosphorus into Lake Erie. An estimated 85% of the phosphorus entering Lake Erie from the Maumee River comes from agricultural sources.

“You’re starting to see the growth of that organism,” says Winslow, describing greenish streaks appearing in western Lake Erie, “So basically, from now through the end of October, there will be the presence of these blooms in the lake.”

Researchers do not expect a repeat of 2014, which saw the city of Toledo forced to shut off its tap water because of a large cyanobacterial bloom.

“Bloom predictions—regardless of size—do not necessarily correlate with public health risk,” says UM aquatic ecologist Don Scavia, “Local weather conditions, such as wind direction and water temperature, also play a role.”

Ohio Sea Grant’s Chris Winslow says tracking this year’s bloom will help those communities that need to treat Lake Erie water.