Research aims to predict algae blooms on lakes, rivers in region
TOLEDO, OHIO » There’s a whole network of satellites, underwater robots and scientific tools watching for toxic algae on Lake Erie. But when it comes to predicting where and when harmful blooms will show up on the Ohio’s rivers and reservoirs, there’s still a lot of mystery.
Researchers now are beginning to look at how to determine which waterways around the state are at the greatest risk and when a crisis could be on the way. Doing that also could point the way to preventing it from happening and provide a model for states around the nation seeing an increasing number of waterways plagued by harmful algae.
Another project underway is aiming to set up a series of sensors along the Ohio River — from Wheeling, West Virginia, to Louisville, Kentucky — that would signal when there might be a problem.
Unlike the annual blooms that spread unsightly shades of green across western Lake Erie, algae outbreaks on rivers and lakes are less predictable and can surprise cities that rely on the water for drinking and recreation.
Two years ago, a plume of algae twisted more than 600 miles down the Ohio River — its first toxic bloom in seven years, though that one was much smaller. The question is whether that bloom was a rare occurrence or a sign of things to come.