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Environment & Energy

Lake Erie Is Expected to Experience One of its Largest Algae Bloom This Summer


A significant harmful algae bloom is predicted this summer in western Lake Erie.

A significant harmful algae bloom is predicted this summer in western Lake Erie. This year’s algae bloom could be one of the biggest on record.  And it means folks out on Western Lake Erie will see green scum on the water.

"These blooms always produce some toxins,” says National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Oceanographer Rick Stumpf.  “So the scums will be a risk for swimmers, they will be a risk for pets.  But other than that, we cannot yet predict the toxicity. We’re working very hard on that across the channel.”

The 2014 algae bloom that contaminated Toledo’s drinking water was smaller than this year’s predicted bloom.  It was its toxicity that caught the city’s water treatment plant off guard – but Stumpf says the plant will be able to handle toxic algae should it reach its water intake.

Harmful algae blooms are triggered when a lot of phosphorus is carried along streams and rivers to Lake Erie.  Research has shown that most of that phosphorus comes from farms.  

According to NOAA, the algae bloom will most likely appear late this  month or early in August.

Dave Spangler is vice president of the Lake Erie Charter Boat Captains Association.  Spangler says he predicted a severe algae bloom for this season – and he’s going to pay attention to satellite images in order to decide where to take his clients.  “We’ll direct ourselves where we’re going, to take our people out to try to avoid it,” said Spangler.

But Spangler says if the year turns out to be as big a bloom as 2015, he’ll shut down the business – even if it costs him money.

“If it get towards the 2015 area, then we’re going to have another bad year as far as financially – we’re not going to take people out,” he said.  

Great Lakes Today is a collaboration of WBFO Buffalo, ideastream Cleveland, and WXXI Rochester.