Harmful Algal Blooms Plague Ohio Waters

This summer, many Ohioans find themselves unable to enjoy the typical outdoor activities associated with the season. With an active public health advisory in Ohio, visitors to Grand Lake St. Mary’s have been advised that swimming and wading are not recommended, water should not be swallowed, and surface scum should be avoided. This comes as a result of the Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) that are plaguing the waters.

Harmful Algal Blooms are not your typical algal blooms or surface scum. HABs are actually a form of cyanobacteria that produce toxins that can cause illness, irritation, and even death in pets, livestock, and humans. Typical green algae come in many forms and may look like underwater moss, stringy mats, or floating scum. Cyanobacteria however, looks like slicks of opaque, bright-green paint, but closer inspection often reveals the grainy, sawdust-like appearance of individual colonies.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency encourages water system operators to inspect the source water and intake regularly for the appearance of HABs, because the toxins can affect public drinking water. The Ohio EPA also recommends that finished drinking water be screened for toxins and regularly monitored if the source water has a history of toxin-producing cyanobacteria blooms. For a list of places where rapid field test kits can be purchased, visit http://www.epa.ohio.gov/portals/28/documents/HAB/Labs_TestKits.pdf

Individuals are encouraged to report unpleasant tastes or smells in drinking water to the local water utility and follow posted water body advisories announced by state agencies or local public health authorities. If you observe what appears to be a HAB on your reservoir, fill out the online bloom report form at http://www.epa.ohio.gov/portals/35/hab/HAB_Report_Form.pdf

For more information on HABs visit the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s website at http://www.epa.ohio.gov/ddagw/HAB.aspx