Water algae blooms mainly blamed on agriculture
The general claim is that heavy rains in the spring and summer increased the volume of chemical fertilizer and manure from crops and livestock operations entering waterways across the US. Scientists caution that these conditions, plus high summer temperatures, contribute to the spread of toxic algae.
Cyanobacteria, also called blue-green algae, can produce liver and nerve toxins that make people and pets sick, and even kill dogs. In addition to public health threats, algae blooms in lake communities have a significant effect on local economies by reducing lake-related tourism.
“Toxic algae outbreaks slimed Florida’s inland waters this summer, killing wildlife, hurting property values and devastating tourism revenue,” said Manley Fuller, president, Florida Wildlife Federation. Thousands of residents have protested, calling for a statewide emergency management plan to stop the toxic slime.”
The reporting on the algae situation across the nation was not just a report but also included a request for action including federal public officials to set limits on the amount of phosphorous allowed into waters; to maintain efforts to restore the nation’s waters, including the Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico, and others; and to pass a strong farm bill that pays farmers to take specific actions to help protect soil and water quality. Whether programs of the type requested by the groups have any chance of coming out of conference committee is unknown.
No matter what happens in Congress, those concerned about algae say more federal attention to the problem is needed. “The reach and extent of harmful algal blooms has likely been under-reported due to the lack of a national program to track health warnings and lakes closures,” said Alan Wilson, associate professor of limnology at Auburn University. “Regional monitoring networks could help fill this important scientific void and tell us more about how climate change, land use and nutrient pollution influence HAB frequency and intensity."