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Health & Science

Researchers Progress on Faster Alerts for Toxic Algae

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U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY

U.S. Geological Survey researchers are working to make algae bloom predictions quicker to protect swimmers and boaters on Ohio’s waterways. Testing is underway at several Lake Erie and Ohio state park beaches. WKSU’s Kevin Niedermier reports.

Since 2006, dangerous E. coli levels at the state’s Lake Erie beaches have reported in real-time with quick testing through the Ohio Nowcast system. But U.S. Geological Survey researcher Donna Francy says it can take about 12 hours to detect toxins associated with algae blooms. She’s leading a project that she says shows promise in quickly identifying at least one of those toxins.

“Microcystin, which is the most commonly found freshwater toxin. ... We know there are factors, we know those factors are related  to mircocystin, we know they’re promising. What we have to do in our next study is include more frequent date collection so we have enough data to develop these mathematical models.”

Francy says in about two years they should have a real-time algae bloom prediction system in place like the one used for E. coli. People who come in contact with algae bloom toxins can experience skin irritation, or if ingested, liver and nervous system damage.