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Vivid green bacteria bloom in the river running through Toledo

Sep 22, 2017

A stretch of the Maumee River that runs through Toledo, Ohio has turned vivid green thanks to a bloom of cyanobacteria.

The Toledo-Lucas County Health Department is advising people to avoid swimming or otherwise exposing themselves to contact with the water.

Cyanobacteria produces a toxin, and even though Health Commissioner Eric Zgodzinski says test results indicate the toxicity of the bloom is below health advisory levels, the best practice is to steer clear, and to thoroughly wash after activities like fishing.

Toledo’s drinking water is safe, according to Zgodzinski, who says the city draws and treats its drinking water from Lake Erie, which has also experienced widespread cyanobacteria blooms this summer and in recent years. He says for now people using the river for recreational purposes should take precautions or avoid it altogether.

Zgodzinski says he took a jog along the riverside earlier this week, and the cyanobacteria is clearly visible.

“It’s that emerald green,” he said. “I call it almost Easter egg coloring dye, you know when you swirl it into a cup and it’s green. It’s very vibrant.”

The Maumee river dumps into Lake Erie. Zgodinski says the Maumee may have seen cyanobacteria blooms like this before. He says his “best guess” is that a lack of strong winds or significant recent rain may have allowed the cyanobacteria to move upstream from the lake.

Health department officials will continue to monitor the toxicity and size of the bloom.

“If it dies off, if we get some winds that push it back onto the lake, we’re not going to worry too much about the recreational water in the river,” Zgodzinski said. “But again, it all depends.”