News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Lehmans

Area Agency on Aging 10B, Inc.

Knight Foundation


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Environment


Portman: Feds may have a bigger role to play ito control toxic blooms
Toledo's outbreak came a month after President Obama signed the Ohio senator's bill beefing up research on algae blooms in the Great lakes
by WKSU's M.L. SCHULTZE
and KAREN SCHAEFER


Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
 
NOAA and NASA have both participated in tracking the outbreaks on Lake Erie.
Courtesy of NASA
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

Among those packing up their pickups with bottled water and heading to northwest Ohio this past weekend was Ohio’s U.S. Sen. Rob Portman. As WKSU’s M.L. Schultze reports, Portman is also pushing a separate fight against the toxic algal blooms that forced the water ban.

LISTEN: Portman on toxic algae research and control

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (1:05)


Exactly one month after President Obama signed Portman’s bill beefing up research on toxic algae blooms in the Great Lakes, Toledo declared a water emergency -- shutting off the drinking water to nearly half a million people because of higher levels of the liver toxins known as microcystins.

 The water is now declared safe. But in a conference call with reporters, Portman acknowledged that more money, more research and perhaps  more regulation may be needed. And the sometimes strong critic of what he sees as federal government overreach says the feds have rightful role here. 

“Some have said, ‘Why is the federal government needed here?’ Well, local communities don’t have satellites. The monitoring is very important. On the research side, the federal government can take in best practices from all around the country and even the world. … And then finally on the mitigation effort, there are some things the federal government can do in conjunction with the local governments and the state that are very important.” 

PORTMAN on farm runoff and algal blooms
Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download
(0:17)


Bright spots
Meanwhile, Toledo Mayor Michael Collins says one thing has changed significantly since last week – at least when it comes to the toxic algae blooms that have plagued Ohio’s lakes and shut down his city’s water supply for three days. He says federal, state and local officials are talking to each other.

 

LISTEN: Collins on what's changed
Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download
(0:17)
“Sometimes it takes an experience like this to put the egos out of the game, put the politics in the coatrack and move forward for the betterment of mankind. And that’s exactly what I think we’ve experienced over these past 72 hours.”

As a concrete example, he said the U.S. and Ohio EPA – as well as his city’s chemists – have agreed on a standard test to check for elevated levels in water supplies of microcystin, the liver toxin linked to toxic algae blooms that have been especially severe in western Lake Erie.

A quick explainer on toxic blue-green algae
By Jeff St. Clair, WKSU

They’re probably the oldest living organisms on earth. 

Fossils containing cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, are more than 3.5 billion years old. Long before plants evolved, cyanobacteria perfected the energy producing process of photosynthesis, over time adding the oxygen to earth that made other life forms possible. 

Scientists are still trying to figure out exactly how to classify them, but they are more closely related to bacteria than algae, hence the name cyanobacteria.

Not all blue-green algae is blue, green -- or toxic.  The Red Sea gets its name from occasional blooms of a reddish species of Oscillatoria, and African flamingos get their pink color from eating Spirulina, which is also a dietary supplement for humans.

More than a dozen types of cyanobacteria produce chemicals that are toxic to humans and animals.

The best known is microcystis which produces its namesake microcystins. There have been approximately 60 different microcystins and all of the chemicals attack the liver in humans and animals.

The World Health Organization recommends levels of mycrocytins of less than 1 ppb, that’s part per billion of drinking water, or 1 ug/L (microgram per liter), but toxicity depends on the person.  For example adults can probably handle more of the toxin than children, sick people or pregnant women.

The symptoms of microcystin poisoning include, skin irritation, stomach cramps, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, fever, sore throat, headache, muscle and joint pain, blisters of the mouth and liver damage.

Swimmers in water containing cyanobacterial toxins may suffer allergic reactions, such as asthma, eye irritation, rashes, and blisters around the mouth and nose. 

The main cause of the current blue-green algae blooms is believed to be nutrient runoff from farm fields, lawns, gardens and septic tanks.

Phosphorus runoff is the main cause of concern for outbreaks of cyanobacteria. The shallow western end of Lake Erie is especially prone to toxic algae blooms because of the nutrients flowing from farms in western Ohio and Indiana.

Local, state and federal environmental groups are looking at ways to reduce farm runoff but these long-term solutions do little to prevent the toxic brew in the short term.

Researchers are learning more about the causes of toxic algae blooms, and some results point to a complex mix of ecology and pollution. 

Blooms of cyanobacteria tend to reoccur in the same waters once they’re established and it’s difficult, if not impossible to eliminate them entirely.

Other research shows that invasives like zebra mussels contribute to cyanobacteria growth by releasing nutrients into the water column.

A wet spring and summer have made conditions worse this year as nutrients flow off farm fields, down streams, rivers, and into Lake Erie.


Related WKSU Stories

What it will take for another Lake Erie recovery
Monday, August 4, 2014

Ohio farmers team with researchers to reduce runoff
Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ohio farmers team with researchers to reduce runoff
Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ohio's EPA looks for a new strategy to battle algae
Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Exploradio: Lake Guardian studies our impact on the Great Lakes
Monday, July 14, 2014

Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook




Stories with Recent Comments

Environmental study nears completion in East Liverpool
Twenty years ago my twin sister and I protested the building and operation of the WTI facility citing several studies that indicated the risk of cancer due to ...

HOF's Canton expansion could take an island and make it a village
I live in the block from Broad St to the Hall of Fame and will be impacted by the expansion. I am in the process of selling my home and planned to long before i...

Cleveland redeploys police to replace rejected red-light traffic cameras
Periodic rotational enforcement without warning does NOT change behavior and the city officials know that. This is the basis of all officer-run enforcement trap...

New enrollment period offers more insurance options
The removal of federal funding for healthcare CO-OPs may limit the growth of the CO-OP movement. http://www.healthcaretownhall.com/?p=6381

The family of Boardman vet killed in Vietnam receives his medals
My name is Mike Eisenbraun. I am Larry's brother. I was 14 years old when Larry was killed in Vietnam. He has been gone for 46 years but it seems like yester...

Cleveland seniors are creating new wealth -- and facing new challenges
Why is anyone surprised that we people over 65 are not retiring? If you have been paying attention, defined company funded pensions were phasing out in the eigh...

Ohio company cuts off a dairy supplier after allegations of animal abuse
these people should be held accountable for their actions. i would be more than pleased to see a year or more behind bars. i will NEVER eat anything that comes ...

Goodyear recruits thousands of vets
What a wonderful interview! Excellent reporting skills by a talented young reporter! I look forward to hearing more from Ms. Schley!

Ohio Democratic Party begins the rebuilding process
I agree 100% with Sen. Brown. I think it is absolutely critical for the Democratic Party in Ohio to engage in the long, tedious, hard task of re-building from t...

Copyright © 2014 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University