Cleveland Water Safe From New Toxic Algae In Lake Erie, Officials Say

A satellite of photo of Lake Erie with algae blooms seen from space.
A satellite photo from an algae bloom in September of 2018. [NOAA]
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Researchers at The Ohio State University have identified a new, potentially harmful algae bloom in the central basin of Lake Erie that could affect Cleveland's water.

The cyanobacteria found in the middle of the central basin thrives in cooler waters, starting in July.

Researcher Justin Chaffin says this toxin, Dolichospermum, has the potential to attack the central nervous system while the one found near Toledo when water temperatures are higher, Microcystis, attacks the liver.  

And that is not the only difference.

“When you look at the sheer biomass difference of the western basin bloom, the water can be extremely green, extremely thick. So there's a much greater risk still in the western basin,” Chaffin explained. “The central basin blooms are much lower in biomass compared to the western basin in that they're shorter lived.”

Chaffin fears water treatment plants aren't able to detect this new toxin because the bloom only lasts for a couple of weeks. 

Cleveland Water says it is ready for any type of toxins that may enter the water treatment plant.

Water quality manager Scott Moegling says they're always checking the water quality in the lake and at the treatment plant. Additionally, he says, the city uses chemicals to fight the blooms.

“We use active carbon as the primary line of defense in the raw water and then once these algae cells get into the plant which they do, we use aluminum sulfate,” he said.

Another line of defense, says Moegling, is constant communication between the city and other water treatment plants along Lake Erie.

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