How big will Lake Erie's algae bloom be this summer?

Researchers in northern Ohio are predicting a significant bloom of toxic blue-green algae this summer, but they add that it will not be as large as the record-setting 2011 bloom.

NASA/AP/File
This satellite photo provided by NASA shows algae blooms on Lake Erie in 2011.

Researchers in northern Ohio predict Lake Erie will have a significant bloom of cyanobacteria, toxic blue-green algae, in the lake's western basin late this summer, but they say it won't be as large as last year's bloom or the record-setting 2011 outbreak.

The forecast was announced Thursday by officials with Ohio State University's Sea Grant Program and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“The reemergence of harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie is an ecological and economic setback for communities along the coast,” said US Representative Marcy Kaptur, in a NOAA press release.

According to NOAA, harmful algal blooms became common in western Lake Erie between the 1960s and 1980s, after which they declined. But over the past decade, they have begun increasing again. Since 2008, the federal agency  has been issuing weekly bulletins for western Lake Erie to give warnings of bloom development. Additionally, the agency has begun issuing annual bloom forecasts.

These forecasts and warnings underscore "the importance of having accessible and reliable environmental intelligence so the public and environmental health specialists can make informed decisions,” said Holly Bamford, assistant NOAA administrator for the National Ocean Service, in the news release. “With this information, we can work collectively to understand harmful algal blooms and mitigate risk to humans and marine ecosystems.”

Phosphorus from farm fertilizer runoff and sewage treatment plants feeds the algae, which leave behind harmful toxins. Farm groups in Ohio have asked farmers to take steps to reduce runoff before government regulators impose their own restrictions.

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