Sunday, August 7, 2011

Harmful Lake Erie Algae Bloom Visible from Space

European Space Agency photos reveal the size of a potentially toxic algae bloom in Western Lake Erie. Algae blooms in this region seemed under control for about 20 years until 1995 when they started to occur again in an almost annual basis. These massive algae blooms, from farm and storm water runoff, can be toxic and are harmful to wildlife, the fishing industry, water quality, and they can wash up on shore and rot, crippling tourism.

This is one of the reasons Obama's funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is so critical. Unfortunately, the funding, which was set at around 475 million dollars per year for five years is being cut by the House of Representatives to 300 million dollars this year, and potentially even less the following years.

Apparently they're unaware or don't care what a huge economic driver and strategic asset the Great Lakes are for the US and the Great Lakes region.

A Lake Erie Harmful Algal Bloom Bulletin issued by NOAA on July 28 said the microcystis concentration has been greater than 1,000 micrograms per liter — 500 times greater than the World Health Organization’s standard of 20 micrograms per liter for recreational water.

The values are often expressed in parts per billion. Micrograms per liter and parts per billion convert to identical concentration measurements.

Not all microcystis contains the deadly toxin microcystin. It is not known how much, if any, of the current bloom has that toxin.

Images can be found here.

The algae, though, wouldn’t be there if not for the region’s ongoing battle with controlling both storm water and agricultural runoff. It is likely to be a topic of discussion when President Obama’s chief adviser on Great Lakes issues, Cameron Davis, visits the University of Toledo’s Lake Erie Center in Oregon tomorrow with U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) and UT President Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, according to an aide for Miss Kaptur.

Mr. Davis is to unveil the latest round of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants, a program that has brought the Great Lakes region a historic amount of new money to combat pollution. Although its anticipated funding of about $300 million is down significantly from its first-year allocation of $475 million, the program is in response to Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign pledge to infuse the Great Lakes region with at least $5 billion for cleanup during his administration. More than $20 billion worth of needs, mostly sewage spills that helped algae grow, have been identified.

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