Toxic algae blooms are not an isolated problem to Ohio.Whether its blue-green algae in Lake Erie or the recent phenomenon of golden algae blooms in Texas, algal blooms should be a concern for everyone that cares about clean water. Along with concerns over drinking water contamination, harmful algal blooms can also create “dead zones” that kill aquatic life, raise treatment costs for drinking water, and hurt businesses and jobs that depend on clean water.
It doesn’t take a scientist to realize that algal blooms can be tough on fishing and tourism. No one wants to swim, fish, or otherwise recreate in potentially toxic water that looks like pea soup, or around a bunch of rotting fish carcasses.
Ultimately though, the threat to clean drinking water is the primary concern, and increased incidents of blooms contaminating drinking water prompted the Environmental Protection Agency in May to issue “health advisories to protect Americans from algal toxins in drinking water.”
The EPA estimates that between 30 and 48 million people use drinking water from lakes and reservoirs that may be vulnerable to algae toxin contamination. “Nutrient pollution and harmful algal blooms are among America’s most serious and growing environmental challenges,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
So how do we address this problem?
Clearly, we need stronger laws to crack down on pollution runoff from factory farms, and we also need to curb the carbon pollution that’s causing climate change. The new Clean Water Rule is also a large part of the solution, as it restores protections to wetlands that help filter runoff pollutants from rivers and streams before they get to our drinking water sources, like Lake Erie.