Kent State Researchers Identify Ways to Combat Harmful Algal Blooms in Lake Erie
The green- and blue-colored algae that grows out of control and often washes up on the shoreline of Lake Erie is not only unsightly but also harmful to many species, including humans.
In Ohio, the western basin of Lake Erie has experienced some of the worst harmful algal blooms in recent years. The blooms have been detected this summer, as they were last summer when the area saw a harmful bloom of record size. In August 2014, cyanobacteria from a harmful algal bloom contaminated the city of Toledo’s water supply and residents were forced to find alternative water sources.
To help fight these toxic blooms, researchers from the Center for Public Policy and Health, in Kent State’s College of Public Health, studied what is currently being done and what can be done in the future to reduce nutrients flowing into the lake, causing the harmful blooms.
Researchers compiled their findings into a report. They identified policy tools based on a review of current nutrient reduction efforts in the Ohio Lake Erie basin, as well as programs and policies being implemented elsewhere in the United States to combat similar water pollution problems.
“The report describes recent state and federal programs and investments targeting nutrient reductions in Lake Erie,” says John Hoornbeek, Ph.D., director of Kent State’s Center for Public Policy and Health. “We also compared what is going on in Ohio with other large-scale water basin programs in the United States in order to draw lessons for the Lake Erie water basin from the experiences of those other programs.”
The project team completed in-depth reviews of the Chesapeake Bay Program, the Long Island Sound Study Program and the Tampa Bay Program and compared the activities of those programs with the programs and policies being implemented in Ohio.
“A major takeaway from the report is that there is a lot going on in Ohio to reduce nutrients flowing to Lake Erie,” Hoornbeek says. “Current efforts are not yet solving the problem. Our research suggests a need to establish ways to better integrate existing efforts, create reporting mechanisms to measure progress, and to consider additional policy tools that are being used elsewhere in the country.”
There are now efforts at the state, national and international levels to create common goals for nutrient reduction in the lake and to assign responsibility for those reductions across governing jurisdictions in the United States and Canada.
Kent State researchers anticipate that their report can help inform those ongoing discussions.
The project was made possible through funding provided by the Ohio State University Water Resources Center and the U.S. Geological Survey. In addition to Hoornbeek, the project team included Joshua Filla, outreach coordinator for Kent State’s Center for Public Policy and Health, and graduate students Anisha Venkata, Saurabh Kalla and Edward Chiyaka. Joseph Ortiz, Ph.D., professor of geology in Kent State’s College of Arts and Sciences, also provided valuable input to the project effort.