News / Science & Technology

    Algal Overload Infects Global Waterways

    Algae Overload Infects Global Waterwaysi
    X
    Rosanne Skirble
    August 06, 2014 10:16 PM
    This week 400,000 people in Toledo, Ohio, could not drink the water. The city’s water supply from Lake Erie was polluted with a toxin linked to the overgrowth of algae. While the water is now safe to drink, harmful algal blooms are not going away any time soon in Ohio or elsewhere in the United States and around the globe. VOA's Rosanne Skirble has the story.
    Rosanne Skirble

    This week 400,000 people in Toledo, Ohio, could not drink the water. The city’s water supply was polluted with a toxin linked to the overgrowth of algae.  A pea green scum settled over the city’s water intake pipes.  For 72 hours the residents relied on handouts of bottled water, which one woman said was stressful. “I have four children and dogs at home," she said, as she picked up free water. “I wanted to make sure we had enough water to brush our teeth and be able to drink it.”

    Toledo gets its water from Lake Erie, which is the source of fresh water for 11 million people in the American Midwest.  

    Algae overload global problem

    Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
    x
    Click to enlarge
    Click to enlarge

    Lake Erie is by no means unique. Algal overload is common in waterways worldwide caused by fertilizer runoff and poor sewage management. Excessive algae deplete oxygen in the water and kill fish says Laura Johnson, a research scientist at the National Center for Water Quality at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio.

    “It also becomes a problem when the type of algae that are growing is a cyanobacteria that can produce toxins," she said. "And when that happens then we have issues, because then those toxins can be in places like our drinking water, or we can get in contact with it if we’re trying to swim there.”    

    Toxins can damage the liver and nervous system. Global warming is making the problem worse. Changing weather patterns produce stronger, more intense winds and storms which move more nutrients off the land.  Johnson says in Ohio the algal season is a long one.

    “The bloom that’s been happening most recently, I mean it’s just started. That’s part of the reason it’s so scary for Toledo right now is because this is the very beginning of the season," she said. "Most of the bloom occurs usually, and gets the largest, in September and October.”   
     
    Satellites track algae outbreaks
    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tracks the bloom from space and uses the satellite data to track the bloom and estimate their concentration, says NOAA oceanographer Richard Stumpf. “We can’t tell you if it’s toxic, but we can tell you if it’s there and how much there is.”

    This helps alert scientists and public officials to take action.  Stumpf says to better manage the problem NOAA is also gathering data on the phosphorous that drives the bloom.

    “It’s only the spring phosphorous that creates the bloom in the summer," he said. "Knowing that means that you can now create a strategy for how do you modify fertilizing practices, how do you modify cultivating practices so that the phosphorous stays on the fields, so it stays there and doesn’t run into the rivers and then into the lake.”

    Keep nutrients on land

    Laura Johnson agrees that the long-term goal must be to keep nutrients on the land. She calls for continued monitoring of farmers' land and water quality. “So that if for some reason a practice is not working as well as we think it should be, then we can change what we are doing and what we are recommending to farmers.”

    Advocates for clean water want stiffer controls and greater cash incentives to encourage farmers to adopt best agricultural practices. Farmers balk at tighter regulations and recently saw a reduction in federal funds to address the issue. As the debate continues, one thing is certain. The algal problem is not going away any time soon.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Mulls Tough Measures for ‘Misbehaving’ Chinese Tourists

    Move comes after footage surfaced online of Chinese travelers harassing a banana hawker in Da Nang

    The Complicated Math of AIDS

    A lot, and then some: the huge - and complicated - cost of the AIDS epidemic

    Pakistan Social Media Star's Honor Killing Fuels Debate

    Qandeel Baloch's murder puts spotlight on deadly tradition and other mistreatment of women

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Borderi
    X
    July 22, 2016 12:30 AM
    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.
    Video

    Video Number of Syrian Refugees Arriving in US Jumps

    The United States is committed to resettling 85,000 refugees from around the world by October. Of that number, 10,000 will come from Syria and already some 4,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in the United States, many of them settling in the state of Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from Chicago, their arrival is not the end of a difficult journey to find peace and stability.
    Video

    Video Rio’s Trams Await Olympic Tourists

    Over the past century, many cities around the world replaced electric trams, prone to breakdowns and backups, with faster and more spacious buses. But for some reason restored antique trams are a huge tourist attraction. So it’s no wonder the authorities in Rio de Janeiro are busy restoring their city’s old tram line ahead of the Summer Olympic Games. VOA’ George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora