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Is Toxic Algae in Waters Near You?

October 21, 2013 -Tom Joseph
HARRISBURG - It's found in lakes, ponds and rivers and can threaten habitat and health: toxic algae is a growing problem across the country, according to a recent report. The National Wildlife Federation and Resource Media looked at occurrences of toxic algae this summer, and found that 21 states had issued health advisories and warnings related to harmful algae blooms.
 
The Federation's Andy Buchsbaum said such blooms often form when rainfall carries excess nutrients from agriculture and storm debris into rivers and streams.
 
He said this is "not just the green algae that gums up your boat or your motor, but this is toxic algae that actually has human health effects and can kill your pets. So, it's a national problem we expect to see in every state."
 
According to the report, extreme weather spurred by climate change is exacerbating the problem. Buchsbaum said another issue is the abundance of fertilizer being used on fields and in parks.
 
"People can make a difference by reducing the nutrients that feed the algae," he said. "That's the number-one response that we can have. We can't control the weather, we can't control temperature of the water, but we can control those nutrient inputs."
 
He said more federal attention to the problem is needed, including limiting the amount of phosphorus allowed into waters.
 
Buchsbaum said it's a problem that flies below the national radar, because no federal agency tracks lake closures or health warnings, and there is little research on the costs associated with hazardous algae blooms. Pockets of toxic blue-green algae have been spotted for the first time in Pennsylvania this year in Lake Erie's Presque Isle Bay, off the city of Erie, and have been an ongoing problem in the Allegheny Reservoir in Warren and McKean counties.
 
The report is at ToxicAlgaeNews.com.
 

 
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