Harmful algae in Lake Erie less prevalent than same time last year

TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Algae blooms have become a common sight on Lake Erie's waters in recent years.

It was just four years ago that toxins from one briefly crippled Toledo's water supply.

This year the algae is still there, but perhaps not as bad in years past. Local charter boat captain Paul Pacholski can attest to that himself.

"Right now this is a good thing," said Pacholski.

The longtime boater has led many trips to the open waters of Lake Erie. Over the past few summers he's seen first-hand how the algae quickly turns people away.

"It was sickening," said Pacholski of the 2016 algal bloom. "I mean, people were calling up, 'We don't want to go out on the lake.'"

After a rough start this July, Pacholski says things have changed for the better, and he has his own theory why.

"It's not from anything man has done to correct it," said Pacholski. "It's Mother Nature."

Pacholski says the mild drought that hit mid-summer contributed to less runoff from the Maumee River, which in turn meant less fuel for toxic algae.

"There hasn't been any contribution of phosphorus or nitrogen," said Pacholski. "So the harmful algal bloom has stepped back."

While the algae isn't as bad now, experts say the runoff that feeds it is still there.

"Over the past 17 years the loading is where we would expect it to be," said Laura Johnson with the National Center for Water Quality Research. "Unfortunately, where we want it to be is much lower than it is."

One a 1-10 scale, water experts predicted this year's algal bloom to be a 6.

Compared to 2017’s eight, Pacholski says he and others who rely on the water for work are pleased with what they've seen.

"They pretty much hit the estimate with a 6 out of 10 for what it was forecasted," said Pacholski. "[We're] quite pleased with it. We don't want to see a 10."

Less harmful algae in Lake Erie is also good news for Toledo's water supply.

As of Tuesday the city's water quality dashboard read "safe," which means tap water is safe to drink and use.