Sandusky Bay algae produces toxins

Published: Jul. 27, 2016 at 5:34 PM EDT
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You've heard all about Lake Erie's algal bloom. Last year's was the biggest in recorded history.

But there is another toxic algal bloom you might not have heard anything about. It's on Sandusky Bay and it produces the same toxin - microcystin.

"There should be concern getting in the water. The contact advisory is reached a lot of the years," Dr. George Bullerjahn said.

Bullerjahn is a professor of biology at Bowling Green State University.

BGSU researchers are busy solving an old puzzle. It's called Planktothrix.

"It's going to look lightly green stained," Dr. Bullerjahn said.

George Bullerjahn says it actually looks different to the naked eye.

Sandusky Bay doesn't have the classic pond scum look of Lake Erie. But that doesn't mean you should dive in...

"The water looks perhaps a little more benign, but the toxin levels can be very, very high," Bullerjahn said.

Mike McKay and Bullerjahn use weather to predict dangerous microcystin.

"So when we find these prolonged periods of warm temperature like we're seeing now, these can be real prime conditions for algal blooms," Dr. McKay said.

McKay is the Ryan Professor of Biology at BGSU.

Sandusky Bay blooms last much longer, from May through Halloween.

"One thing we haven't had this year, which we had last year, were some prolific storm events," McKay said.

"When there's a lot of rain, there's a lot of nitrogen. When it's very dry, like this year, there's no nitrogen at all… They can survive in these low nitrogen environments," Bullerjahn said.

Green lake water isn't necessarily toxic. And clear-looking water can be very toxic. Both men make clear that Erie County's drinking water is very safe.

"Because of the awareness that 2014 brought to the region… I think there really shouldn't be much in the way of concern for drinking water," Dr. McKay said. "I think for recreational contact, that should still be a concern."

Next week is the two year anniversary of the toxic algal bloom that made some changes to Toledo's water quality. Our crew will give you an exclusive look on what things look like now, next week for the anniversary.