Niagara Gazette

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July 5, 2013

Larger Lake Erie algae bloom forecasted

Niagara Gazette — IBRALTAR ISLAND, Ohio — Experts are predicting the toxic blue-green algae outbreak in the western basin of Lake Erie this summer will be more significant than last year but much smaller than the bloom that blanketed about two-thirds of the lake two summers ago.

The forecast predicts a "significant bloom" in that part of the lake will begin in August. But it's expected to be about one-fifth the size of the 2011 bloom that hampered tourism and drew headlines as one of the worst on record.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which bases its algae forecast in large part on the amount of rain that falls on farms in Erie's drainage basin, presented the forecast Tuesday at Ohio State University's Stone Laboratory on Gibraltar Island, near Put-in-Bay. In Ohio, the drainage basin includes the Maumee and Sandusky rivers.

"People will notice there's a bloom in some areas," said Rick Stumpf, NOAA's algae modeler and forecaster. "You need to at least plan to work around this."

The algae growth is fed by phosphorous from fertilizer runoff and other sources, producing bacteria that can kill animals and sicken humans.

The forecast from state and federal experts for Lake Erie's recurring summer algae problems calls for a bloom that could cover 300 square miles across the lake's western basin.

That's nearly twice as large as last summer's bloom but about one-fifth the size of the bloom that covered 1,600 square miles from Toledo to Cleveland in 2011.

The algae produce liver and nerve toxins that can not only sicken people and kill pets and wildlife but also take a bite out of the lake's annual $11.5 billion annual tourism industry. Algae also help create an oxygen-depleted zone in the center of the lake where fish can't survive.

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