Monitoring the root cause of the algal bloom - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Monitoring the root cause of the algal bloom

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TIFFIN, Ohio - The 13abc I-Team taking you to the experts tracking what's going into the Maumee River that's causing that Lake Erie algal bloom.   Too much of the toxic algae triggered the "do not drink" order at the start of the August. 

One local university is at the forefront of tracking what's going into the river and the major changes that have happened over the last 40 years.

Heidelberg University has been tracking phosphorus in several area rivers for years and has a good handle on what's happened in the past and what can be done to change the future.   

“In 2003 was when we said 'Hey this is an issue.  We need to be concerned,'" said Dr. Laura Johnson of Heidelberg's National Center for Water Quality Research. 

The concern is the algae bloom fueled mostly by something you can't see: Phosphorus in places like the Maumee River. 

"We're measuring the health of our water all the times just like we would do for ourselves.  You go to the doctor to get yourself checked out.  If something looks off you're going to change how you are eating or change how you are exercising.  Same thing on the land.  We need to have that flexibility to reach the goals," said Dr. Johnson.  

Flexibility on land because run off from places like farms are one of the biggest contributors to phosphorus.

“I like to think what's happening is leaky farms.  They're just leaking a little bit.  It contributes a lot to our lake because our lake is very susceptible to algal bloom," said Dr. Johnson. 

Scientists at Heidelberg track phosphorus year round.  2011 had the high concentration of discharge.  Many say in size and scope, 2011 had the worst algae bloom.

"What we're finding in that while these are all contributing, it's getting that land runoff that gets over the tipping point to where we get to a bloom," said Dr. Johnson. 

It's not just farm runoff, Dr. Johnson say water treatment plants, septic tanks, golf courses, even lawn fertilizer contribute to phosphorus in the river.

Everyone can help slow it down with these simple tips:

Use a rain barrel to water your plants and keep water out of the treatment plant.

Use fertilizer without phosphorus.

Use a low flow toilet or shower head to put less pressure on the water treatment plant, so it does not get over loaded and spill into the rivers.

Heidelberg University researchers will start charting phosphorus and possible growth of the algae bloom starting in March.

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