Lake Erie forecast: smaller algae bloom


Associated Press

TOLEDO

Another significant algae bloom is likely to spread through western Lake Erie this summer, but it will be smaller than the largest ones of recent years, researchers said Thursday.

What they can’t predict is how toxic it might be.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and research partners released their annual algae forecast for the lake, where blooms on the shallowest and warmest of the Great Lakes have flourished for more than a decade now.

The forecast comes a day after Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced plans to increase regulations on farmers to reduce the phosphorus from fertilizer runoff that feeds the algae.

If approved, the regulations would affect nearly 2 million acres and an estimated 7,000 farms, according to the state’s agriculture department.

Researchers, using a scale for rating the severity of the bloom, expect it to be a 6 this year while the bloom last year was an 8 – matching the third-most severe bloom in 15 years.

Still, this year’s bloom will be big enough to produce potentially harmful toxins that can foul drinking water or kill fish.

Scientists aren’t able to forecast a bloom’s toxicity and its size doesn’t dictate how toxic it will be. The bloom in 2014 that caused a two-day shutdown of drinking water in Toledo was smaller in size than in several recent years.

Researchers say that the forecast of a smaller bloom this year doesn’t mean enough progress is being made.

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