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July 17, 2024
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HAB Tracker
from NCCOS satellite monitoring and Ohio BeachGuard
Maumee Bay HAB merges with North Maumee Bay, Michigan shoreline HAB

July 7, 2024 updated 424 pm EDT

Ohio EPA spokesperson Dina Pierce has addressed our inquiry about the Sandusky Bay HAB being identified as something other than the microcystis HAB common to Lake Erie. According to Pierce, "NOAA's Lake Erie HAB bulletin from June 27 noted satellite detections of cyanobacteria in Sandusky Bay, and the caption noted Aphanizomenon. This has not been confirmed by Ohio EPA."

Ohio EPA drinking water monitoring for water facilities consists of a bi-weekly testing regimen for microcystins, a liver toxin most commonly produced by the HAB commonly found in Lake Erie. The drinking water sources monitoring for total microcystins begins the first full week of June and continues to the first full week of December. So far this season, the water facilities drawing from Sandusky Bay have found total microcystins below the minimum reporting level. According to OEPA, "During the HAB season, all public water systems in Ohio conduct routine HAB monitoring, which includes collection of a raw microcystins sample and a cyanobacteria screening sample. These are alternating biweekly samples. The most recent cyanobacteria sample for Sandusky, collected June 11, had a microcystin gene detection of 2.3 gene copies per microliter (gc/uL). This gene detection result indicates the potential presence of a toxin. However, the concentration was low enough that it was below Ohio EPA's 24-hour follow-up requirement minimum of 5 gc/uL. Additionally, all routine total microcystins results have remained non-detect from both June 3 and June 17 monitoring events."

As the Sandusky bloom has expanded and increased in concentration since it was detected June 11, a good month earlier than normal, WTOH continues to follow the daily uploads from the NCCOS, also watching for new water lab results posted for Sandusky City.

Given the Sandusky Bay HAB has been tagged by NCCOS as Aphanizomenon, we asked OEPA how standard monitoring requirements for drinking water may be adjusted for a different HAB and the different toxins produced. From a USGS chart relating the Cyanobacteria Genera to their associated toxins, we see that the Sandusky Bay HAB is not known to produce microcystins, rather this type of cyanobacteria is known for production of "cylindrospermopsins." This is another type of liver toxin and not part of the routine testing panel. According to Centers for Disease Control, "Cylindrospermopsin is also a hepatotoxin and nephrotoxin made by cyanobacteria. Ingesting cylindrospermopsin can cause headache, fever, vomiting and bloody diarrhea." It is known to bioaccumulate in certain aquatic organisms and is more harmful for young children. Fortunately, cylindropermopsins are readily broken down by the water treatment process and UV radiation.

As for testing protocol changing for different species of HABs, Pierce says, "While Ohio EPA isn't responsible for managing the HAB bloom itself, we do review data from agencies like NCCOS to understand the current HAB bloom location and extent. This helps us better inform our public water systems of what is happening around their intake locations. Routine monitoring will continue for Sandusky. If there was a cyanobacteria screening result above a concentration of concern, additional raw and finished water samples would be collected. If there is any raw water microcystins detection, Sandusky will be required to increase its sampling frequency to include weekly paired raw and finished microcystins monitoring until two weeks of non-detection in the samples."

Possibly more concerning than the liver toxins produced by HABs are the neurotoxins. Aphanizomenon is known for production of all four neurotoxins including anatoxin, saxitoxin and neosaxitoxin, and BMAA. More to follow as we break down what these toxins do and how they are removed from drinking water.

New HABs spotted in Portage River last week take us to the Ottawa County Regional Water and Sewer plant. Monitoring of the raw water for Ottawa County is underway, follow this report for updates.

Lake Erie West Basin HAB Monitoring Program satellite images supplied by National Center for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS)

The latest image from NCCOS was captured July 8 at surface wind speed 4.6 mph. This image is partially cloud obscured, however we can see the Maumee Bay and North Maumee Bay HABs have merged, the highest concentration found near shore south of Monroe, the hot spot appears smaller in this image, matching concentration scale for 2 million cells per 100 ml sample. The bloom area has expanded, now taking up 15 plus nm up the west shore starting from the outlet of Maumee River at Toledo, extending just as wide, at least 15 nm into open water, wrapping around Cedar Point National Wildlife Refuge.

The following observations are based on the image from July 8:
  • North Maumee Bay widespread HAB from west shore up to 15 nm into open water 700 thousand cells per 100 ml
  • Toledo - Maumee Bay widespread HAB from the outlet of Maumee River Toledo past the international border 700 thousand cells per 100 ml
  • Toledo - Maumee Bay State Park widespread HAB extending from Niles Beach to Cedar Point and approximately 5 nm into open water 400 thousand cells per 100 ml
  • Mallard Club Marsh Wilderness Area to Cedar Point cloud obscured, no HAB noted
  • Cedar Point National Wildlife Refuge east side of the point is cloud obscured, July 7 image showed HAB wrapping the shoreline around the point at 700 thousand cells per 100 ml
  • Reno Beach cloud obscured, no HAB noted
  • Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area widespread HAB inland water 700 thousand cells per 100 ml
  • Magee Marsh Wildlife Area cloud obscured, no HAB noted
  • Toussaint River cloud obscured, no HAB noted
  • Camp Perry cloud obscured, no HAB noted
  • Port Clinton cloud obscured, no HAB noted, July 2 localized HAB near the outlet of Portage River 200 thousand cells per 100 ml
  • Catawba Island cloud obscured, no HAB noted, July 2 image showed east side harbor localized HAB 300 thousand cells per 100 ml
  • Kelleys Island cloud obscured, no HAB noted
  • South Bass Island partially cloud obscured, no HAB observed
  • Middle Bass Island partially cloud obscured, no HAB observed
Sandusky Bay:
  • Muddy Creek Bay - no HAB activity
  • Pickerel Point to Bayview/Route 269 - widespread HAB 700 thousand cells per 100 ml
  • Bay View/Route 269 to Cedar Point - lakewide, widespread HAB 700 thousand cells per 100 ml
  • Cedar Point - cloud obscured, July 2 image showed widespread HAB large localized HAB 700 thousand cells per 100 ml south of Cedar Point Rd
Lake Erie east of Sandusky Baypartially cloud obscured, no HAB visible in open water HAB - July 2 image showed widespread HAB band extending 10 to 12 miles lake side of Cedar Point 200 thousand cells per 100 ml

Composited Cyanobacteria Index as reported by National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, a visual scale based on true color imagery from the Copernicus- Sentinel 3a satellite of the EUMETSAT Note: Winds above 4.0 mph may begin mixing the bloom and clouds may obscure it, leading to an underestimate of the area. Moderate and low concentrations may not be obvious to the eye.

Ten beach advisories are posted Tuesday morning, down from eleven yesterday. Barkcamp is off the advisory list Four Lake Erie beaches appear on the advisory list for high bacteria levels with new postings for Main Street Beach, Beulah Beach and Lake Front Park in Erie County on Saturday. Kelleys Island State Park remains on the list from the advisory issued last week.

Ohio Department of Health posts advisories based on updated lab test results with e.coli levels above 235 ug/L, or based on predictive modeling. Beach advisories based on predictive modeling may display e.coli test results well below the threshold 235 ug/L.

The following list are the beaches with active advisories, e.coli test results are being added as they come in, check back for the latest results.

Bacteria Contamination Advisory High Bacteria Level confirmed by lab testing
Lake Erie
  • Main Street Beach - Erie County - advisory issued 853 am July 6, 2024 for e.coli 261 cfu per 100 ml measured July 5
  • Lake Front Park - Erie County - advisory issued 845 am July 6, 2024 for e.coli 307.6 cfu per 100 ml measured July 5
  • Beulah Beach - Erie County - advisory issued 850 am July 6, 2024 for e.coli 920.8 cfu per 100 ml measured July 5
  • Kelleys Island State Park - Ottawa County - advisory issued 249 pm am July 2, 2024 for e.coli 365.4 cfu per 100 ml measured July 1
  • Interior Ohio Beach Advisories
    • Isaak Walton League Loveland - Little Miami River - Clermont County advisory issued 417 pm July 2, 2024, July 1 e.coli 590 cfu/100 ml
    • Camp Dennison Municipal Park - Little Miami River - Clermont County advisory issued July 2 416 pm - June 25 e.coli 560 cfu/100 ml
    Algal Toxin Advisories
    • Grand Lake - St Marys Main East Beach - Recreational Public Health Advisory issued 315 pm June 5 for algal bloom toxin - June 25 microcystins 3.4 ug/L, down from 20.7 ug/L on June 16; June 16 e.coli 67.7 cfu/100 ml
    • Grand Lake - St Marys - Windy Point - Recreational Public Health Advisory - Algal bloom-toxin issued May 23, 2024 June 25 microcystin 13.4, down from 36.4 on June 18. Bacterial contamination advisory issued May 20, 2024 June 16 e.coli 24.9 cfu/100 ml.
    • Grand Lake - Main West Beach - Recreational Public Health Advisory - Algal bloom-toxin issued May 23, 2024 June 25 microcystin 9.2 ug/L, down from 18.5 on June 16. June 16, 2024 e.coli 11 cfu/100 ml.
    • Grand Lake - St. Mary's Camp - Recreational Public Health Advisory - Algal bloom-toxin issued May 23, 2024, June 25 microcystins 3.4 ug/L, down from 17.6 ug/L June 16; June 16 e.coli 67.7 cfu/100 ml

    Removed from the active advisory list over the weekend
    • Barkcamp - Belmont County - advisory issued 424 pm June 20, 2024, June 18 e.coli 495 cfu/100 ml
    Ohio BeachGuard is a public facing app displaying active advisories for recreational water bodies, including high bacteria advisories and toxic algae advisories. Sampling is done by County Health, water utilities or Ohio Department of Natural Resources with advisories issued and lab test results reported by the Ohio Department of Health. Ohio Environmental Protection Agency oversees standard testing of raw water sources for bacterial and cyanotoxin levels in water to be treated for drinking. OEPA and ODNR, Ohio DOH publish test results for drinking water and recreational water separately, even on the same water body. WT tracks bacterial and cyanotoxin values from both the recreational BeachGuard and Ohio Drinking Water Watch.

    Toxic algae advisories indicate avoid all contact with the water. Algal toxins have been found at unsafe levels. Swimming and wading are not recommended. Keep pets away.

    For more information check Ohio State resources here
    or call 1-866-644-6224

    Western Basin Lake Erie National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science
    HABS Hazardous Algae Blooms
    Get informed and stay safe around the water this summer
    WaterToday collects algal bloom monitoring information from state and federal agencies including but not limited to the CDC, EPA, NOAA and state public health authorities.
    HABs alerts are posted on our state maps according to the best available information reported by citizen groups, universities, state and/or federal monitoring agencies.
    Before you head out to the beach, pond or stream, check with local authorities to confirm the latest HABs conditions.
    Consider carrying a rapid test kit for micro-cystin, the most common of the cyanobacteria toxins.

    Sources for algal bloom data:
    National Centres for Coastal Ocean Science
    A department of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NCCOS provides harmful algal bloom forecasting for certain water bodies and regions including:
     West Basin Lake Erie https://coastalscience.noaa.gov/science-areas/habs/hab-monitoring-system/cyanobacteria-algal-bloom-from-satellite-in-western-lake-erie-basin/
    Lake Pontchartrain  https://coastalscience.noaa.gov/science-areas/habs/hab-monitoring-system/cyanobacteria-algal-bloom-from-satellite-in-lake-pontchartrain-la/

    The forecasting is based on true color imagery provided by OLCI sensors on Copernicus Sentinel-3a satellite of the EUMETSAT group

    Environmental Protection Agency Cyanobacteria Assessment Network (CyAN)
    The mission of the CyAN project is to support the environmental management and public use of U.S. lakes and estuaries by providing a useful and accessible approach to detecting and quantifying algal blooms and related water quality using satellite data records. 
    What is CyAN:  Mobile and web-based application for cyanobacteria monitoring
    How does it work?  Users can enter the coordinates or name of local water bodies for monitoring information. 
    The CyAN project officially started October 1, 2015. It provided continental U.S. coverage using the
    Envisat MERIS archive from 2002-2012
    Sign up here: https://www.epa.gov/water-research/cyanobacteria-assessment-network-application-cyan-app

    Centers for Disease Control

    Environmental Public Health Tracking provides data and information on health outcomes, the environment, population, and exposures, including hazardous algal blooms occurring in water bodies of the USA, both freshwater and marine.

    CDC Public Notice on Hazardous Algae Blooms
    It is not possible to know if a large growth, or bloom, of algae or cyanobacteria (also called blue-green algae) is harmful just by looking at it. Some blooms make toxins (poisons), which can still be in the water even when you can’t see a bloom. Learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones from harmful algae and cyanobacteria, what to do if you or a pet is exposed to them, and how to help prevent these blooms.

    Swimming and Wading:  Stay out of water with a bloom, rinse off if you or your pets are in contact with water
    If you see signs of a bloom, stay out of the water and keep your pets out of the water. Do not fish, swim, boat, or play water sports in areas where this is possible harmful algae or cyanobacteria.
    Do not go into or play in water that:

    • Smells bad
    • Looks discolored
    • Has foam, scum, algal mats, or paint-like streaks on the surface
    • Has dead fish or other animals washed up on its shore or beach
    Protect your pets and livestock from getting sick by keeping them away from water with possible harmful algae or cyanobacteria. Do not let animals:
    • Get in the water
    • Drink the water
    • Lick or eat mats of cyanobacteria or algae
    • Eat or graze near the water
    • Eat dead fish or other animals on the shore
    • Go on the beach or shoreline
    If you or your pets do go in water that may have a bloom, rinse yourself and your pets immediately afterward with tap water from a sink, shower, hose, or outdoor spigot. Do not let pets lick their fur until they have been rinsed. Pets may have harmful algae, cyanobacteria, or related toxins on their fur if they swim or play in water with a bloom.
    Do not fill pools with water directly from lakes, rivers, or ponds. The water could contain algal or cyanobacterial toxins or unsafe levels of germs.

    Drinking Water:
    Follow local guidance about toxins in tap water If you are notified of cyanobacteria or their toxins in your public drinking water supply, follow guidance from your local or state government or water utility to reduce the chances of you or your animals getting sick.
    Harmful cyanobacteria may grow in water bodies that supply tap water. Although many water treatment plants can remove these toxins, tap water can be contaminated in certain situations. Cyanobacteria can also produce substances that are not harmful, but can change the taste or smell of tap water.
    If you have concerns about the appearance, smell, or taste of tap water that you are using, contact your water utility or health department. Consider using bottled water for drinking and cooking until the problem is resolved.
    Don’t boil water contaminated with toxins. Boiling water does not remove toxins and can concentrate the toxin.

    Fish and shellfish:
    Be aware of advisories and health risks related to eating contaminated fish and shellfish
    Avoid eating very large reef fish (such as grouper or amberjack), especially the head, gut, liver, or roe (eggs). Large reef fish may be contaminated with ciguatoxin, the algal toxin that causes ciguatera fish poisoning. See the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Fish and Fishery Products Hazards and Controls Guidance for more information on reef fish associated with unsafe levels of toxins.
    Check for and follow local shellfish and fish advisories before eating any fish or shellfish you collect yourself. Algal and cyanobacterial toxins in fish or shellfish have no taste or odor. Cooking or preserving food does not remove toxins. Thus, you cannot tell if the seafood is safe by just looking at, smelling, or tasting it.

    • Check to see if shellfish beds are closed. State shellfish control authorities (usually state health departments or other state agencies) are required to control for toxins where harmful algal blooms are likely to occur and toxins could build up in shellfish. Common ways state authorities control for algal toxins include routine monitoring for toxic algae or shellfish and testing shellfish for toxins before or after harvesting. If levels of toxins are unsafe, state authorities will close the area for shellfish harvesting until shellfish are safe to eat.
    • Check safety advisories from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Fish and Shellfish Advisories and Safe Eating Guidelines website.

    Report any concerns to your local public health authorities.

    EPA notice to the public on harmful algae
    Harmful algal blooms can be green, blue, red or brown. They can be scummy or look like paint on the surface of the water.
    What are harmful algal blooms?
    Harmful algal blooms are overgrowths of algae in water. Some produce dangerous toxins in fresh or marine water but even nontoxic blooms hurt the environment and local economies.
    What are the effects of harmful algal blooms?
    Harmful algal blooms can:

    • Produce extremely dangerous toxins that can sicken or kill people and animals
    • Create dead zones in the water
    • Raise treatment costs for drinking water
    • Hurt industries that depend on clean water

    The EPA has a role in enforcing environmental protection regulations to limit discharges into water bodies that contribute to the growth of harmful algal blooms.
    The EPA also maintains list of Impaired Water Bodies by state, those water bodies that are not supporting their ideal uses for recreation, including swimming, fishing and wading.  The EPA works with state authorities to identify water bodies that are not supporting their intended recreational uses, to set daily maximum loads for contaminants and nutrient load for impaired water bodies.  The EPA works with state and other federal agencies to investigate and prosecute violations of the Clean Water Act, with a role in ordering watershed plans that limit discharges to these water bodies to allow for recovery.

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