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Lake Erie's toxic algae blooms: Why is the water turning green?

April 08, 2019 4:58 PM | Emily Reichert

By: Cheryl Dybas

Source: National Science Foundation


Since the late 1990s, Lake Erie has been plagued with blooms of toxic algae that turn its waters a bright blue-green. These harmful algae blooms are made up of cyanobacteria that produce the liver toxin microcystin.

The blooms have led to public warnings to avoid water contact. In August 2014, for example, high microcystin concentrations were detected in drinking water from the lake. As a result, the water supply to 400,000 people in Toledo, Ohio, was shut down.

"Algae blooms can be a mixture of toxic and non-toxic forms, and different species of microcystin-producing cyanobacteria can inhabit different parts of Lake Erie," says George Bullerjahn, director of the Great Lakes Center for Fresh Waters and Human Health. The center is headquartered at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and is supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Scientists at the center are conducting research to understand why harmful algae blooms happen in particular parts of Lake Erie. Their studies will help determine strategies to mitigate the blooms.

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