Wednesday, Sep 20, 2017
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City, county aiming to find algae’s source

Early predictions: ’16 bloom may be milder than last year

The Lucas County commissioners and Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson announced Thursday the second phase of their joint effort to identify nutrients that help grow harmful algal blooms in western Lake Erie.

“Today we are introducing the Western Lake Erie Nutrient Sources Inventory, which looks at the urban and rural runoff issues throughout the western Lake Erie basin,” Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak said during a news conference at International Park in East Toledo.

“We will be looking at things like combined sewer overflows, wastewater treatment plants ... row crop agriculture, and factory farms such as the confined animal feeding operations throughout the region,” she said.

There are four phases to the project.

Mayor Hicks-Hudson said she would ask City Council to allocate $125,000 from the city’s stormwater fund toward the second phase of the project.

The county has already paid $50,000 for the first phase. It will pay another $75,000 for the second phase, officials said.

The first was development of an interactive tool that maps watersheds and nutrient sources. It will be released to the public June 23, officials said.

The second phase is the development of a “nutrient load model” for watershed areas in which the county and city lack data.

The inventory will help prioritize areas and projects so efforts can have an impact on reducing the harmful algal blooms, Mrs. Wozniak said.

Phase three will be identifying things that can be done to reduce nutrient runoff and phase four is measuring their impact, she said.

“Identifying the sources and amounts of nutrient runoff is a critical step in understanding the problem and developing solutions,” Commissioner Carol Contrada said.

“When it goes online later this summer, this nutrient sources inventory can be used by citizens, businesses, and by community leaders, and policy-makers in communities throughout the basin … as a foundational guide to decision-making,” she said.

Chronic algae has been a problem in Western Lake Erie since 1995.

Early indications released last month by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show the 2016 bloom could be milder than last summer and most likely about average in size. 

Also last month, the city unveiled an updated version of its web-based water quality dashboard.

The biggest change was the needle won’t move out of the far left “clear” zone until the chief algal toxin, microcystin, drawn into the city’s intake is at a concentration of 5 parts per billion or more. That’s the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency action level for testing three times a week. Last year, that threshold was at 0.3 ppb, the lowest-detectable concentration.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171 or on Twitter @IgnazioMessina.

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