Algae bloom concerns: Survey of Lake Erie shows it could keep some out of the water

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LAKE ERIE-- It's not a matter of if there will be an algae bloom in Lake Erie; it's a matter of when.

A new federal survey of the lake says the western part of it will see blooms bad enough to keep people out of the water.

“Right now it's about eight feet, and at eight feet that's fairly clear water which means there's not much sediment and not much algae in the water," National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Scientist Rick Stumpf said. “We're right between the spring bloom which has disappeared and whenever the sign of bacteria that the bloom will show up this summer.”

Stumpf says the area between Toledo and the Lake Erie islands on a scale of one to 10 should see blooms average around 7.5; that's enough to cause problems with recreation.

“For people to use the lake, they will need to look in advance where the bloom would be so they can plan their trip accordingly," he said.

Algae blooms are caused by many factors but phosphorus from agriculture is one of the leading causes.

Environmentalists say voluntary measures in Ohio, Michigan, New York and Canada to cut back aren't working.

“The situation is getting worse and so we're calling for a lot of common sense things that a lot of small-time farmers are implementing. It's just those big industrial farms aren't hitting on this yet; they're skirting around it," Max Schaefer with Ohio Environmental Council said.

But farmers groups voluntary measures are working.

And preserving the health of the lake and preventing algae blooms is a matter of working together and not pointing fingers.

“Farmers have been diligent about incorporating best practices in their farming operations," Brad Reynolds with the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association said. “They're precision planting, injecting phosphorus when they can -- not just blanket spreading that leads to runoff, so they've done a lot in the area of conservation, so we're quite proud of our efforts. We have more to go, but I think we're on the right path.”

NOAA says although they can’t predict precisely where a bloom will occur, they encourage anyone who is planning activities on the lake to pay attention to news reports or check with their destination.

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