Re­search aims to pre­dict al­gae blooms on lakes, rivers in re­gion

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - Local News - By John Seewer

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.

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