Lake Erie harmful algae bloom threatens drinking water supplies—an FAQ

Satellite image of 2011 bloom, the worst bloom in recent years, which impacted over half of the lake shore Photo credit: MERIS/ESA, processed by NOAA/NOS/NCCOSLake Erie is no stranger to algae blooms, including blooms of blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), which can produce toxins that pose health threats.  Blue-green algae are toxin producers, also known as Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs).  This past weekend, the city of Toledo, Ohio and a number of municipalities and townships in southeast Michigan lost their normal source of drinking water – Lake Erie – due to Microcystin, the toxin produced by Microcystis that was detected in water samples. Microcystin is the most common HAB species in the Great Lakes.

For those dealing with Harmful Algae Blooms, or water supplies contaminated by toxins from HABs, many critical questions come immediately to mind.  Some of the most common Frequently Asked Questions and their answers follow:

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