Predictions Indicate Harmful Lake Erie Algae Levels will be Worse Than 2018

Columbus, OH — Today, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) researchers and academic partners released the final Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB) seasonal forecast at an event at The Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory. This group predicts the 2019 bloom in Lake Erie will have a severity of 7.5 (out of a scale of 10), which is greater than the bloom predicted and experienced in 2018.

Satellite imagery from June 28 and July 1 has already shown the presence of cyanobacteria in Lake Erie’s western basin, along the Michigan coast, and spilling out of Sandusky Bay. In addition to Lake Erie, HABs have been already been reported this year in Buckeye Lake in Licking and Fairfield counties, Grand Lake Saint Mary in Mercer County, and Lake White in Pike County.

In its 2018 water quality report, the Ohio EPA (OEPA) highlighted the severity of the harmful algal bloom problem in Lake Erie by designating the open waters of western Lake Erie as impaired for algae. Additionally, the OEPA published another report breaking down nutrient contributions in major Ohio waterways and highlighting how to address this problem throughout the state.

The following statement can be attributed in full or in part to Pete Bucher, Director of Water Resources at the Ohio Environmental Council:

“In the face of climate change, the complexity of Ohio’s harmful algae problems become even more complex and urgent. As we heard today, there are lower concentrations of total bioavailable phosphorus detected than expected based on rainfall amounts. However, record rainfalls are still expected to increase the severity of this year’s harmful algal bloom by further driving phosphorus into Lake Erie. It’s no secret that climate change creates more extreme weather events, and rainy years like this year could very well be the new normal in Ohio.

“Harmful algal blooms are putting Ohio waterways at risk and threatening the quality and safety of our drinking water. This threat can no longer be ignored. We must work together to reduce phosphorus inputs to solve this critical issue in the face of climate change. Environmental, agriculture, academic and regulatory leaders must continue to collaboratively develop pragmatic, science-based, strategic solutions that will protect our waterways for all Ohioans.”