Algae experts fight to heal Lake Erie

Published: Sep. 14, 2017 at 6:21 PM EDT
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Toledo’s drinking water dashboard is back in the 'watch' category Thursday. While the city says your water is totally safe to drink, is Lake Erie itself really doing any better?

258 scientists gathered at the Stranahan Thursday to solve Lake Erie's green water problem. While the science is better than ever, the lake is a different story.

“That's going to take a lot longer,” George Bullerjahn said.

Dr. George Bullerjahn is an algae expert. The BGSU professor helps run an early warning system for Lake Erie blooms. Even if you never visit the shore, this affects you.

“The economic impact is so great that toxic water is part of the issue but also the appearance of the water,” Bullerjahn said.

And even if we cut phosphorous and fertilizer out, harmful algal blooms won't just disappear.

“We do know that there is going to be some lag,” Jay Martin said. “And the lag is due to the phosphorus that's been built up in the soil over time.”

Dr. Jay Martin from Ohio State hosted today's conference at the Stranahan. It brought researchers, and farmers together. The goal is to work together.

“I think we've somewhat moved past the finger-pointing, the blame game right now. Most of us are realizing we need to partner. We need to partner with agriculture. We need to partner with NGOs to make progress,” Martin said.

One way nearby researchers work together is the early warning system that detects algae well before it hits Toledo’s intake.

“Well there's a series of 20 sensors that are out in the lake, that are all wired together,” Bullerjahn said. “And they report to the internet every 20 minutes.”

For some, that early warning system may not be early enough. But now, there are things homeowners can do for only a couple hundred bucks.

“Well I think there's options you can use at home, to protect yourself against micro-toxins, microcystin toxins. As well as you can use these to protect yourself against other pollutants that are in the water. These systems are quite good,” Glenn Lipscomb said.

UT’s Dr. Glenn Lipscomb says reverse osmosis filtration systems are nearing certification for microcystin. That will do a lot more than your normal Brita filter.