Multiple factors, including nitrogen availability, may shape toxicity of Lake Erie cyanobacterial blooms

ANN ARBOR—The most detailed genetic study of western Lake Erie’s shifting cyanobacterial communities is yielding new insights into the factors that were at play last August when high levels of a bacterial toxin shut down the drinking water supply to more than 400,000 Toledo-area residents.

The University of Michigan-led study is revealing that as environmental conditions in the lake changed throughout summer 2014, the relative abundance of various cyanobacterial strains shifted in response, altering the bacterial bloom’s toxicity.

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The Big-Ag-Fueled Algae Bloom That Won’t Leave Toledo’s Water Supply Alone

A vast Lake Erie algae bloom returns, captured by a NASA satelite on July 28. NASA/Earth Observatory

A vast Lake Erie algae bloom returns, captured by a NASA satelite on July 28. NASA/Earth Observatory

The citizens of Toledo, Ohio, have embarked upon their new summer ritual: stocking up on bottled water. For the second straight year, an enormous algae bloom has settled upon Lake Erie, generating nasty toxins right where the city of 400,000 draws its tap water.

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Toledo Water Quality

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Stay informed! Watch your local news, listen to the radio, or check online to make sure that you are up-to-date with the water ban. Children are smaller and cyanobacteria could be a bigger danger to them compared to adults. Dogs, cats, or other animals can also be affected, but will be unable to voice discomfort.

“Remember, you can still boat, fish and recreate in Ohio’s lakes, streams and rivers. Just be aware that Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs) exist. When in doubt, stay out.”Ohio EPA

If you suspect or know that you, a child, or an animal has ingested or has come into contact with cyanobacteria, dial 911 immediately.

Massive fish kill on Long Island

Posted: Jun 01, 2015 6:06 PM EDTUpdated: Jun 08, 2015 6:06 PM EDT

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The sight is upsetting and the smell can knock you over. Dead bunker fish began washing ashore last Thursday in Riverhead, New York. By Monday, thousands were still floating in Peconic Bay that eventually washed ashore with the tide cycle. Continue reading


It’s Earth Day — the perfect time to check in with Pure Lake Erie, a web site that formed in response to the algae bloom that shut off Toledo tap water last summer. “We thought it would be a great idea to try and help the situation by connecting groups who are working on it,” says spokesman Anthony DiFrancesco.

  1. Is the algae getting worse on Lake Erie? If no action is taken, then yes, the blue­green algae will get worse. There are several projects that are currently working to heal the lake. You can read more about them and other projects on our official website. The cyanobacteria becomes worse in the hot summer months where the likelihood of a bloom increases.
  2. What can the average person do to improve the situation? The Ohio EPA website has a section called “make a difference” where it lists a number of things that can be done to contribute: recycle, conserve energy, use less toxic products and more.
  3. What will happen if the algae gets worse? If the algae gets worse, it is possible that Lake Erie will have to face yet another major toxic algae bloom similar to the one in August 2014. People may lose complete access to tap water again and have to rely on bottled.
  4. What can we expect on the lake this summer? Hopefully, we will be more prepared than we were back in 2014 and there won’t be a water ban. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has designed an early warning system to detect toxic algae blooms before they occur. The project cost $3.6 billion and it aims to protect Lake Erie from any contamination.
  5. What’s the good news? Typically the algae is not a huge problem throughout the rest of the year, and Lake Erie still provides some of the best water on the planet. Conditions will improve as long as phosphorus and possibly other chemical runoff is not going into Lake Erie.

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