News and views, and history and humor, about the lake I love.

"I can hear my granddad's stories of the storms out on Lake Erie, where vessels and cargos and fortunes, and sailors' lives were lost." ~ James Taylor, Millworker

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tests show high levels of liver toxin in Lake Erie water

Photo credit: Sierra Club
Tests of Lake Erie water at a beach in Maumee Bay revealed high levels of a liver toxin in the water, prompting the strengthening of a health warning for toxic algae. The Columbus Dispatch is reporting that while a previous warning at Maumee Bay State Park's beach in Lucas County told people not to touch blue-green algae scum or swallow lake water, that warning has now been upgraded to recommend against swimming and wading, after tests detected a liver toxin called microcystin in concentrations more than twice as high as the World Health Organization's safety standard for swimmers.
The Dispatch cites researchers as saying that toxic algae across the western basin of Lake Erie is the worst recorded there since they began tracking it in 2002.
Last Thursday state officials posted a warning at the Kelleys Island public beach recommending swimmers not touch the algae or swallow the water. Test results on toxins at that site are pending.

A University of Toledo ecologist who studies Lake Erie's harmful algae said this year's bloom covers more area and has lasted longer than the one two years ago. This summer's "algae bloom" already has been deemed 2.5 times denser than a record bloom in 2009, according to tests by the University of Toledo.

Phosphorus from manure, fertilizers and sewage feeds the blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria. Tests performed by Heidelberg University in Tiffin show large amounts of phosphorus flowing into Lake Erie from the Maumee and Sandusky rivers.

In addition to threatening the health of people and pets, blue-green algae also poses a threat to the lake's $10 billion annual tourism industry, according to the Dispatch.

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