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Harmful Algae Blooms

March 19, 2024

Western Basin Lake Erie National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science HABs monitoring program (NCCOS)

The latest image from NCCOS was captured March 18 at a surface wind speed of 26.1 mph. This image is completely cloud obscured. The wind speed is too high for a reliable assessment of HAB extent. This is to say that any HAB observed may be underestimated as to extent, some of the bloom may be mixed down the water column. It also means where no HAB activity is observed, we cannot conclude there is no HAB, the wind can submerge the mat out of view of the satellite imaging equipment.

The following observations are based on the latest clear image, obtained March 17:
  • North Maumee Bay
  • Toledo - Maumee Bay no HAB activity visible
  • Toledo - Maumee Bay State Park - no HAB activity visible
  • Mallard Club Marsh Wilderness Area to Cedar Point no HAB activity visible
  • Cedar Point National Wildlife Refuge open water HAB 3-4 nm off shore 100 thousand cells per 100 ml
  • Reno Beach no HAB activity visible
  • Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area localized HABs on shore 100 thousand cells per 100 ml
  • Magee Marsh Wildlife Area localized HABs on shore 100 thousand cells per 100 ml
  • Toussaint River no HAB activity visible
  • Camp Perry no HAB activity visible
  • Port Clinton localized HABs in Portage River upstream of the outlet at Port Clinton, 100 thousand cells per 100 ml
  • Catawba Island localized HAB in east harbor
  • Kelleys Island no HAB activity visible
  • South Bass Island no HAB activity visible
  • Middle Bass Island no HAB activity visible
Sandusky Bay:
  • Muddy Creek Bay - no HAB activity visible
  • Pickerel Point to Bayview/Route 269 - no HAB activity visible
  • Bay View/Route 269 to Cedar Point - no HAB activity visible
Lake Erie east of Sandusky Bay - localized HABs on shore between Huron River outlet and Vermilion River outlet, 100 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.

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 canít 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.
Donít 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 Administrationís (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 Agencyís (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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