News Feature | May 22, 2014

Should EPA Regulate Blue-Green Algae Toxins?

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

schumerreg

A New York senator wants the federal government to provide more direction to water utilities when it comes to treating water contaminated by toxic algae. 

During a press conference in May, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., "called on the EPA to regulate cyanotoxins and provide help and guidance to local water treatment plants in testing and filtering the toxin from drinking water. It’s something both Canada and the European union have already done," the Buffalo News reported.

Cyanotoxins, which are produced by blue-green algae, are on the EPA's Candidate Contaminant 3 List, which enumerates harmful contaminants for potential regulatory action.

Schumer said, per WIVB, that the EPA "should tell us the level that we have to worry about how do we test for it and how do we treat it so we get below the safe levels. It is simple for them to do and probably won’t be that expensive, but they haven’t done it."

The push comes as algae blooms plaguing Lake Erie travel closer to New York, which bounds the lake to the east. During the press conference, "government officials and environmentalists took aim at stopping the cyanobacteria before it reaches Western New York. They called for a two-pronged federal approach involving the [EPA] and U.S. Department of Agriculture," the Buffalo News reported.  

"Schumer says 'conditions are ripe' for a record toxic algae bloom on Lake Erie that could threaten local drinking water," WBFO reported.

Schumer also said that the Agriculture Department should label the Great Lakes a “critical conservation area,” a designation created by the 2014 Farm Bill, according to the Buffalo News. "That would provide farms federal funding and assistance to help them prevent runoff from their farms, which scientists cite as the top contributor of phosphorous – and, with it, algal blooms – to Lake Erie," according to the report. 

Schumer emphasized the dangers posed by toxic algae during the press conference. “[The blooms] look nice. They have an innocuous blue-green appearance. But they are very problematic because they generate something called cyanotoxins; those sound bad and they are,” he said, per WIVB. 

“Lake Erie is one of Western New York’s greatest resources for tourism, recreation and for healthy drinking water,” he said, according to the Buffalo News report. “But toxic algae blooms threaten to greatly undercut the value of this resource.”

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Image credit: "Untitled," now © 2011, used under an Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

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