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Published: Thursday, 10/28/2010

Algae advisory lifted at 2 state parks in region

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Not that you're planning to swim in Lake Erie with November around the corner - but the 2010 threat of toxic blue-green algae is finally over at two area state parks.

The advisory at Maumee Bay State Park in eastern Lucas County was lifted Wednesday, a week after the one at East Harbor State Park in Ottawa County was removed.

Advisories remain in effect at Grand Lake St. Marys, Lake Alma State Park, and Wingfoot Lake, according to a joint statement issued by the Ohio Department of Health, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The advisories at Maumee Bay and East Harbor state parks, which were posted in August, were the first for algae along Lake Erie since at least the 1970s.

At least one species of toxic algae, microcystis, has bloomed in Lake Erie almost annually since 1995. Ohio did not post advisories until this year.

Officials have said their decision to launch what is believed to be Ohio's first statewide algae-tracking program came in response to the public outcry over the heavy algae pollution in Grand Lake St. Marys, the largest inland lake in Ohio.

In an interview earlier this month, the directors of those three agencies admitted they were caught off-guard. They said they will spend much of the fall and winter analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of their impromptu effort.

Funding issues remain, though.

Officials said they are not sure where they will get money to replicate this summer's effort or supplant it with a broader, more comprehensive one. As of early October, they had spent at least $413,000 of unbudgeted state money to gather water samples, send them off for analysis, and notify the public where the greatest known risks were present. That figure doesn't include staffing time or the most recent sampling costs.

Testing for algae at Ohio's 11 public water treatment plants along western Lake Erie has cost the state's taxpayers about $5,800 a week, officials have said.

One of the region's most renowned academic facilities for algae-inducing phosphorus, Heidelberg University's National Center for Water Quality Research, said it is struggling to raise money for sampling next spring along the Maumee and Sandusky rivers, two of the largest western Lake Erie tributaries.

Contact Tom Henry at:

thenry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6079.



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