COLUMBUS, Ohio – The forecast for Lake Erie this summer looks like it will be calling for another outbreak of algae on the water.
The director of the Ohio Sea Grant College Program said conditions in the lake are looking like they did in 2011 when a massive algae bloom spread from Toledo to Cleveland.
Algae blooms threaten the lake’s tourism and fishing industries, and toxins produced by the algae contribute to oxygen-deprived dead zones where fish can’t survive.
It’s too soon to give an overall prediction, but from where we are right now, even if we didn’t get any more rainfall we would already be getting what would be an average-sized bloom, Jeff Reutter, head of Ohio Sea Grant, said at a conference in Columbus last week.
Heavy rainfalls this spring means more water is flowing into the lake and carrying more pollutants.
Phosphorus from farm fertilizer runoff and sewage treatment plants feed the algae that leave behind toxins that can kill animals and foul drinking water.
Measurements of phosphorus runoff along the Maumee River near Toledo has been well above average through the first four months of the year and is similar to that of 2011, Reutter said.
The algae are poisonous enough to kill animals, make people sick and affect drinking water.