Toxic algae blooms threaten lakes, reservoirs in more than 20 states

[USA] They’re the spoilers of summer fun, capable of rapid expansion that can quickly cover a lake while sickening humans or killing pets that enter the water.

Toxic algae blooms have become a widespread this summer, especially in areas that have seen relentless, which gives the tiny organisms a favorable environment in which they can grow. In all, more than 20 states have reported toxic algae blooms this summer, according to NPR.

Water full of algae laps along the Sewell's Point shore on the St. Lucie River under an Ocean Boulevard bridge, Monday, June 27, 2016. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post via AP)
Water full of algae laps along the Sewell’s Point shore on the St. Lucie River under an Ocean Boulevard bridge, Monday, June 27, 2016. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post via AP)

These blooms have come from virtually every region of the country. More than 100 people were sickened at Utah Lake after the water turned green and forced officials to close the waterway in July. That lake supplies irrigation water for farmers downstream, so health experts were forced to run tests on the Jordan River and several canals to ensure the bloom didn’t contaminate the water with which local crops were being sprayed.

"The state, as you know, doesn't have any control over Lake Okeechobee," he told WPTV on Tuesday. "The federal government has got to put the money in to be able to hold more water there when we have a rainy year like we have now." The algae forced Treasure Coast o⤀ꀈcials to close some beaches in Martin County this week, just days before the Fourth of July holiday weekend, the Palm Beach Post reports, and has been spotted in waterways and canals across much of South Florida.
“The state, as you know, doesn’t have any control over Lake Okeechobee,” he told WPTV on Tuesday. “The federal government has got to put the money in to be able to hold more water there when we have a rainy year like we have now.” The algae forced Treasure Coast o⤀ꀈcials to close some beaches in Martin County this week, just days before the Fourth of July holiday weekend, the Palm Beach Post reports, and has been spotted in waterways and canals across much of South Florida.

The culprit is blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, according to the New York Times. When the right weather conditions – abundant sunshine and warm temperatures – and a good supply of nitrogen and phosphorus meet calm, cloudy water, the stage is set for a rapid algae bloom that can close an entire lake, the report added. And because record heat is outnumbering record cold by a 4-to-1 margin in 2016, there’s no shortage of suitable weather conditions for algae blooms in the United States.

Lake Okeechobee's massive bloom of blue-green algae is visible from space. (NASA)
Lake Okeechobee’s massive bloom of blue-green algae is visible from space. (NASA)

In Oregon, a series of blooms kept visitors away from the continent’s deepest river gorge at Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, according to KATU.com. One of the blooms left the foul-smelling algae in a 10-mile stretch of a waterway that’s upstream from Hells Canyon Dam, the report added.

Robert Barstow shows his son Michael Barstow the awful smelling algae hugging the shoreline of the St. Lucie River on July 11, 2016 in Stuart, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Robert Barstow shows his son Michael Barstow the awful smelling algae hugging the shoreline of the St. Lucie River on July 11, 2016 in Stuart, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

“It’s one of the worst years,” Lance Holloway, a surface water manager with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, told KATU.com. “I’ve never seen it like that.”

Experts have even found algae blooms in mountain lakes and streams, NPR reported, which has surprised experts. The rising number of blooms, as well as the increasing toxicity of the algae, suggests climate change is making the situation worse, algae expert Bev Anderson told NPR.

A closeup view of the waves of algae on Lake Okeechobee. (NASA)
A closeup view of the waves of algae on Lake Okeechobee. (NASA)

“We’re getting higher temperatures than we’ve seen ever in the past,” Anderson told NPR. “California had an unprecedented drought for the last five years which [has left] the water levels very low in a lot of areas.”

As drought continues to drain these lakes, Anderson added, it becomes easier for the sun to warm them to favorable temperatures for the algae, and the process accelerates.

 

Photo: Boats docked at Central Marine in Stuart, Fla., are surrounded by blue green algae, Wednesday, June 29, 2016. ( Greg Lovett/The Palm Beach Post via AP)

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