Algae bloom reaches peak - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Algae bloom reaches peak

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OREGON, Ohio -

In the late summer, when the water temperature in western Lake Erie reaches its peak, algae forms and expands in Maumee Bay.  Now, a few days after Labor Day, the algae bloom is large.

"It's at peak right now. We've been there for a few weeks," Dr. Tom Bridgeman, an Associate Professor of Ecology with the University of Toledo told us.

Jim McMaster was rollerblading on the beach side trail today, and mentioned he visits the Maumee Bay State Park about five times a week.  He has been watching the algae.  "When the wind blows the surface stuff away, in some spots, [the algae is deep enough] you can't begin to see the bottom."

Jim says that as the algae bloom expands, the number of visitors, at least at the beach, drops.  "I think it's people's perception of what the algae is all about. The majority of the swimming should be done in the isolated, inland pool - but the stigma is that oh, there's algae everywhere."

However, the lodge manager says that they've had about as many visitors this August, as last August, when the bloom was much smaller.

Dr. Bridgeman put this year's bloom in context.  "It's not as large as 2011, but it's bigger than last year."

We asked what leads one year to be worse than others.

He explained how the algae bloom grows: "Nitrogen and phosphorous contained in fertilizers for the most part from agricultural lands surrounding Lake Erie. We know that springtime runoff from the land is the biggest predictor of how the bloom will be in late summer. If we have a lot of rain in April, May and June, we'll have a big bloom."

The problem is nothing new, but it is one we should respect.

Dr. Bridgeman explained, "It is potentially harmful, and it is potentially an irritant. Some people can swim in it with no problem, but some people have a strong allergic reaction. If someone were to ingest the algae, they could become very sick."

That includes pets, who might try to take a drink at water's edge.

As the water temperatures begin to fall over the next few weeks, we'll begin to see the algae bloom come to an end.

Dr. Bridgeman says we've made dramatic strides over the past few decades, reducing the industrial waste in Lake Erie.

However, he says more can be done to reduce fertilizer runoff, as algae problems have returned.

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