A Time for Algae

July 7, 2016

Ah, summer … a time of backyard barbecues, days at the pool and … algae blooms? Unfortunately, the season we usually associate with outdoor fun – especially fun involving pools, water sports and boating – is also the time when bodies of water are most likely to be affected by algae blooms.

Microcystin has been a key contaminant of concern since it was brought to public attention in the summer of 2014, when an algae bloom in Lake Erie affected hundreds of thousands of Toledo, Ohio, residents by contaminating the municipal water system. Although not all compounds produced by algae are toxic – geosmin, for example, can cause water to smell and taste like dirt, but is not a health concern – municipalities are working to find solutions to avoid algae concerns in their water supplies.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched the One Health Harmful Algal Bloom System, a resource that may help in these efforts. The website allows state and territorial health and environmental departments to report cases of illness caused by harmful algal blooms (HABs). The new website also includes information on HABs and a toolkit to help public entities relate information about them to residents.

Water dealers also play a key role in helping the public not only understand the effects of algae-related toxins, but also in providing clean, safe water during a crisis. John Keener of Toledo Water Conditioning was in the thick of it in 2014. In addition to selling clean water at his dealership (the line ran out the door and down the street, he said), he proactively reached out to local news outlets to provide information on microcystin and treatment option to remove it from water.

Has your community been affected by an algae bloom? How did your dealership respond? Email us at [email protected] to tell us your story.