Public health advisory remains active for Maumee River

Published: Sep. 21, 2017 at 5:24 PM EDT
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The algae bloom that prompted a health advisory seems to be expanding along the Maumee River. The Lucas County Health Department says the algal bloom extends now from Anthony Wayne Bridge to Cullen Park. Test results show the microcystin level is below 6ppb but swimming and wading in the Maumee River is discouraged for children and pregnant women, pets or people with medical conditions. Advisory signs have been posted along the river.

Meantime, the green scum floats along the surface along the river near downtown Toledo.

"I'm just glad that when we go on a cruise that people are looking out and up at how beautiful Toledo is, rather than down and in, seeing how bad our river is," Captain Paul Pacholski, president, Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, said.

Murky, paint-like algae covers the shorelines of the river, staining the rocks and docks.

The green slime prompted a "public health advisory" late Thursday.

The Toledo-Lucas County Health Department issued a recreational public health advisory, stating, "swimming and wading in the Maumee River is not recommended for children, pregnant/nursing women, pets, or those with certain medical conditions. Advisory signs will be posted along the Maumee River at various access points."

"Whenever you get light winds and the right conditions with a lot of phosphorus and nitrogen then you're going to get a harmful algal bloom and cynobacteria," Pacholski told 13abc.

He also says that the recent stretch of summer-like weather is only fueling the fire, adding that it's no surprise that the river looks the way it does.

"47% of all the phosphorus that comes into Lake Erie comes through this river," Pacholski said.

The thick, bright green film has been washing up on the shores for days.

"This is terrible here," John Jakubowski, a Toledo boater said.

It's not enough to keep Jakubowski and his wife off of the water, but he says the bloom is unwelcome and discouraging.

"Where are you going to take the kids swimming? We used to do it all the time out here, but it's a thing of the past," he said.

Work is underway to curb the problem, and, at this point, everyone can agree it's vital.

The health department says if you come in contact with water associated with the bloom to rinse skin immediately.

Symptoms of exposure include rash, hives, blisters, severe diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Testing is taking place "in response to algal activity".

Toledo officials emphasize that the city's water supply remains safe to drink. Tests show "non-detect" in tap water and less than 5 bbp in untreated water at the Lake Erie water intake crib. The water dashboard remains in the "clear" category.

NOAA issued a regular Lake Erie Algal bulletin on Thursday that shows a bloom from the western basin from Maumee Bay east into the central basin. Winds since Monday caused an increase in surface concentrations with scums extending from Maumee Bay northeast to the Ontario coast.

Forecast winds may increase the potential for scum formation according to NOAA although water temperatures may limit the growth of Microcystis concentrations.

Anyone who comes in contact with the algal bloom should rinse skin immediately.