Oct 15, 2013

Algae in Lake Erie, fed by farm runoff, threaten drinking water for 11 million people [feedly]

Toxins from blobs of algae on western Lake Erie are threatening the drinking water for 11 million people, and cities and towns are dishing out large sums of cash to combat the toxins, which are worsened by phosphorus from farm fertilizer and other sources that run off into the lake, John Seewer reports for The Associated Press. Toledo will spend an extra $1 million this year—in addition to the $3 million it already spends on water treatment—to combat the toxins. Ottawa County is considering a fee increase next year to cover the added expenses of testing and treating the water, and last month Carroll Township, west of Toledo, ordered its 2,000 residents not to use or drink tap water. (AP photo by D'Arcy Egan: White foam is created by a release of chemicals from dying algae blooms) 

"Algae blooms during the summer and early fall have turned the water into a pea-soup color in recent years," Seewer writes. "The unsightly surface has scared away tourists, and toxins produced by the algae have contributed to oxygen-deprived dead zones where fish can't survive. The algae growth is fed by phosphorous from farm fertilizer runoff and other sources, leaving behind toxins that can kill animals and sicken humans. What makes combating these toxins a challenge for operators of water treatment plants is that there are no standards on how to handle the problem or federal guidelines on what is a safe amount in drinking water." (Read more)

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