Lake Erie’s Toxic Algae Bloom Forecast for Summer 2016

As summer gets into full swing, the people of Toledo, Ohio, begin what has become a disturbing annual ritual—the wait for a toxic algae bloom to erupt across Lake Erie. This year, however, the anticipation may be mixed with hope, as state and federal officials take on this persistent problem.

A satellite image of the 2015 Lake Erie algae bloom. Photo credit: NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory
A satellite image of the 2015 Lake Erie algae bloom. Photo credit: NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

The harmful blooms have a notorious history. In 2011, toxic algae in the open waters of Lake Erie’s Western Basin were 50 times higher than the World Health Organization limit for safe body contact. That same year, levels were 1,200 times higher than the limit for safe drinking water, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In August 2014, toxic algae shuttered the Toledo, Ohio drinking water treatment plant for several days, leading to advisories against the use of tap water in the city. The bloom also led to warnings for Pelee Island, Ontario residents not to use lake water. In total, more than 500,000 people were impacted. And the summer of 2015 produced the largest algae bloom in Lake Erie in 100 years. While it didn’t reach earlier toxicity levels, the bloom covered 300 square miles.

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Maumee River load currently less than last year

True color image from May 23 taken by MODIS on NASA’s Terra satellite. Calm winds over the weekend have allowed the sediment in the western basin and along the Ohio coast to settle.

The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science and Heidelberg University’s National Center for Water Quality Research have issued a second early season prediction regarding harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie.

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