News Feature | November 14, 2013

Toxic Algae Shuts Down Ohio Treatment Plant

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Officials are exploring a slew of new ways to handle the toxic algae plaguing Lake Erie.

The Ohio Phosphorus Task Force, originally convened in 2010, is expected to release its latest set of findings in a 110-page report later this month, the Toledo Blade reported.

The task force will recommend "a 40 percent reduction in phosphorous entering Ohio waterways," the Lancaster Eagle Gazette reported. The report may recommend new laws and regulations. Its findings could have a major impact on sewage operators since phosphorous from farm runoff and wastewater treatment plants help feed the algae, the Blade reported.

"Efforts could include a stronger focus on mixing nutrients in farm soil to reduce agricultural runoff into waterways, tighter controls on animal manure — including a ban on winter application — and an effort to fix sewage overflows faster," the report said.

Utilities have already been affected by the algae. In an unprecedented move, officials took one water treatment plant completely offline.

"The water-treatment plant in Ottawa County’s Carroll Township, which serves 2,000 people, became so overwhelmed by the algae’s toxin, microcystin, that superintendent Henry Biggert took the unprecedented action of shutting it down," the Blade said. "That was the first time in Ohio history that a Lake Erie water-treatment plant was taken offline because of algae."

Algae has become part of a debate over taxes in Ohio, as well.

"A plan to form a special Lake Facilities Authority that can tax properties and hotels to augment state and federal funding has fueled a public debate about who should pay for the cleanup," the Columbus Dispatch reported.

The algae issue has baffled scientists.

"Western Lake Erie’s 2013 toxic algae outbreak was worse than expected, fooling the most advanced scientific prediction model the federal government has developed and covering more of the lake’s open water than any of the recent outbreaks except the 2011 record," the Blade reported.

Water plants on Lake Erie are contending with the consequences of blue-green algae growths, which produce microcystin, a dangerous toxin that can lead to liver damage. Toledo city council approved a plan to spend $1 million to counteract the toxin, which migrated from Lake Erie into the city’s water supply, the Blade reported

For previous news from Water Online about treating phosphorous, click here.

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