State officials in Ohio want to list parts of the Lake Erie shoreline and drinking water intakes in the lake as impaired. They want to do this because of the toxic blooms of cyanobacteria that have been growing on the lake every year. The blooms are fueled by excess nutrients, mostly phosphorus, that get into the lake from farms and sewage treatment plants.
An impaired listing under the Clean Water Act sets pollution limits and outlines what has to happen to clean up that pollution.
The drought this summer may not have been good for your lawn.
But it was good for reducing the blooms of green slime known as cyanobacteria in Lake Erie.
"The low bloom we're seeing right now is just because Mother Nature threw us a dry year," says Chris Winslow, Interim Director of the Ohio Sea Grant. "Definitely the problem's not solved."
The problem is phosphorus, a component of fertilizer used on farmland throughout the water basins of Lake Erie. In a normal year, rains flush the phosphorus from farmland into the lake, and cyanobacteria loves phosphorus.
Big, ugly blooms of cyanobacteria form on Lake Erie when excess nutrients — mostly phosphorus — run off from farms and sewage treatment plants. A kind of cyanobacteria called Microcystis produces a toxin that can hurt pets and make the water unsafe to drink.
That happened in Toledo in 2014, when the city had to shut down its drinking water supply.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tries to predict what’s going to happen with the blooms on Lake Erie each year.
By 2095, Michigan's summers will be like those we're used to seeing in Arkansas and Mississippi. Our winters will be like West Virginia's and Kentucky's.
And that changing climate – with extreme heat, big storms, plus a LOT more rain and snow – means we're looking at five major health risks, according to a new report from climate researchers and the state health department.
Wayne County's wastewater treatment plant will soon have to reduce the amount of phosphorus it dumps into the Detroit River.
It's part of the state's plan to lower phosphorus levels in Lake Erie to control cyanobacteria blooms.
Bill Creal is with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. He says the new permit for Wayne County will be the same as the permit given to Detroit Water and Sewerage last year, which was more successful at reducing phosphorus than anyone envisioned.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that a 2011 algae bloom shut down Toledo's water system. It also incorrectly attributed to Dr. Sonia Joseph-Joshi a statement that this year's blooms are not expected to affect the system.
A growth of harmful algae on Lake Erie has grown larger than last year's bloom, according to the National and Oceanic Atmospheric Adminstration's Lake Erie Harmful Algal Bloom Bulletin.
Another severe algal bloom will hit western Lake Erie later this summer, according to environmental scientists from the University of Michigan and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Last August, high levels of cyanobacteria shut down Toledo's drinking water supply.
Heavy rains in June have set up conditions for another severe bloom, ranking between an 8.1 and 9.5 on a 10-point scale. Any bloom greater than a 5.0 is of concern. Scientists say they can't predict whether there will be another "Toledo event," as that depends on how the bloom develops.
Governor Rick Snyder’s administration has released a first draft of a 30-year strategy for protecting and improving the state’s water resources.
The plan says there are environmental and economic benefits to protecting and improving lakes, rivers, and streams. The plan includes connecting waterways to promote tourism. Also, fixing outdated sewer and drinking water systems.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is teaming up with three states – Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana – and 40 groups to jointly tackle cyanobacteria, that scourge of Lake Erie that briefly shut down Toledo's water supply last summer.
Cyanobacteria thrives on phosphorus and other nutrients in runoff from farms. The hope is to deprive cyanobacteria of some of the food it needs to reproduce in massive quantities.
Large animal farms will no longer be allowed to give or sell excess manure to smaller farms between the months of January and March.
Brad Wurfel is with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. He says the larger farms know not to do this, but sometimes the smaller farms will spread the manure on frozen, snow-covered fields.
Michigan Congresswoman Candice Miller says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency needs to do more to help cities deal with toxic cyanobacteria blooms in Lake Erie.
"Particularly when they see something where you have an entire region could not utilize their own drinking water supply," says Miller, referring to a two-day shutdown of Toledo's water supply in August.
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - Consumers in Ohio's fourth-largest city may be asked to voluntarily conserve water next year to limit demand and help reduce contamination from toxins left by Lake Erie algae.
Such toxins fouled water for 400,000 people in the Toledo area last month, leaving some without clean tap water for two days.
The Blade newspaper reports the water treatment commissioner talked about the planned conservation request during a panel discussion this week. Commissioner Tim Murphy says lowering demand would allow water to be treated for longer periods of time.
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - The federal government is coming up with more money to help farmers cut down on the fertilizers that are feeding cyanobacteria, sometimes referred to as blue-green algae, in Lake Erie.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio announced Friday that an additional $1 million will go into a program that will give grants to farmers who plant winter crops.
Researchers say winter crops help to stop fertilizers from washing into streams and rivers that flow into Lake Erie.
If you go out in western Lake Erie right now, you'll see us.
We turn the water green. The wakes of the boats -- normally a frothy white -- we turn them a frothy green.
We've been at it for billions of years, and the more you feed us (thank you farmers and the people of metro Detroit), the more we multiply in your warm slow moving waters. But when experts and reporters talk about us, they call us "toxic algae."
Algae? Seriously? Just because we look like plant-scum growing in the water doesn't mean that's what we are.
We are the only kind of bacteria that can release the microsystin toxin into water supplies.