What to know about harmful algae blooms

Natalie Kelley, Reporter

Bacteria causing destruction to Lake Erie is not a new phenomenon. However, every year algae blooms creep into the lake and cause disruption to human and water life. 

Algae itself is not usually harmful, but within the algae, there is a bacteria called mycrocytis. Mycrocitys builds up in the surface of the water and creates a toxin called microcystin. Mycrocystin has the ability to severely impact the lives of people who come in contact with it as well as animals. The toxin, microcystin, can pose a risk to drinking water, cause skin irritation, and negatively affect wildlife, pets, and livestock.(oceanservice.noaa.gov) 

“Basically farmers are putting down fertilizer that contains phosphorus in excess and that fertilizer is becoming run off into the lake,” said Russel Columbus, a chemistry teacher at Monroe High. “These runoff chemicals create a problem with phosphorus, which is a limiting factor in nature.”

Think of limiting factors as a scientific term for the reason why plants can’t get what they want. For example, the reason most people can’t buy a Ferrari would be because of money, which makes money the limiting factor. 

“These limiting factors cause an increase in the population of certain plants that contain toxins they have for protection from predators,” Columbus continues. “When these toxins are released they become harmful to living things around them.”

Monroe has not had a problem yet with contamination of the drinking water supply because of extensive testing and monitoring done at the water treatment facility. 

“Monroe has a very certain protocol for these things, considering it’s happened before,” said Columbus. “If when testing the results show a dangerous feature of the water, a ‘do not drink’ warning will be given and we will start seeing the same effects that Toledo has been experiencing for a while.”

These harmful algae blooms can be dangerous to people swimming, fishing, boating, and using water on the every day basis. It’s easy to take proper precautions to prevent this; such as, being aware, cleaning your fish very well before eating, and knowing what signs to look for (michiganseagrant.org).