Life-Threatening Algae in Lake Erie

Satellite images of Lake Erie show enormous plumes of green, spiraling and spreading its way throughout its waters. According to recent studies, these dark green clouds are actually the result of an algal bloom (a sudden and exponential increase in an algae population). Samples taken of the algae in Lake Erie have been indicating record-breaking amounts, in what scientists believe to be the biggest and most deadly algal bloom ever recorded in the fourth-largest Great Lake, threatening the safety of the surrounding Northeast’s water supply, marine life, and citizens.

The Great Green Lake

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released disturbing satellite images recently of what they expect to soon become the largest and most deadly algal bloom in Lake Erie to date, beating 2011’s previous record. The algae in Lake Erie is made up of cyanobacteria—a type of bacteria that thrives in warm water environments. With this past July having been the hottest month ever recorded , it is no wonder that Lake Erie has become swamped with the toxic bacteria.

An Erie Toxin

Blue and green algal blooms such as the cyanobacteria in Lake Erie produce an extremely dangerous chemical called mycrocystin, which has been known to kill mass amounts of marine life, as well as cause severe and sometimes fatal symptoms in humans. If accidentally drank through tap water, or eaten with contaminated food, extreme symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea and liver damage have been known to arise. And if you’re thinking of simply boiling the bacteria out of your water or seafood, think again—the warmer the water, the more cyanobacteria thrive, meaning you’ll only be making the situation worse.

Due to these circumstances, the Ohio Department of Health was forced to issue an official warning concerning the dangers of the algae in Lake Erie—a hugely famous lake for tourism and recreation. Officials warned against any interaction with water from the lake, as any form of contact with it could cause anything from skin rashes to hives, vomiting, and neurological failure.

Is This Our Fault?

According to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, yes–the deadly increase of algae in Lake Erie is mostly caused by human intervention, and could have been easily prevented, provided officials took the matter more seriously.

Cyanobacteria thrive in still, warm waters—especially those in which excess nutrients are present. Lake Erie has long been a dumping ground for excess nutrients, as farm and factory runoff sends enormous amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen to its waters every year. The vast majority of these nutrients come from fertilizers, animal manure, power plant emissions and septic tanks in the areas surrounding the lake. This, coupled with rising temperatures on a global scale provide just the right conditions for the deadly growth of algae in Lake Erie.

The State of Ohio is currently working on a deal that would reduce the amount of nutrients carried to the lake by farm and factory runoff statewide.


Atmoph brings the best of the world into your humble abode: