News Feature | August 9, 2016

While EPA Claims Progress Against Algae, Relief Not Universal

Dominique 'Peak' Johnson

By Peak Johnson

Lead has not been the only substance finding its way in drinking water across the country. Algae has long been a reoccurring problem as well.

According to the Detroit News, the U.S. EPA has been making progress in reducing the amount of toxic algae that is finding its way into the nation’s drinking water.

EPA deputy assistant administrator Joel Beauvais said in a letter that his agency “has made strides to address these challenges through many of the activities identified in the Strategic Plan.”

“Management of harmful algal blooms in drinking waters poses many challenges, ranging from understanding health effects, to developing viable monitoring, analytical, and treatment methods to determining effective strategies for preventing cyanotoxins in drinking water,” Beauvais wrote.

In one sign that those efforts have not been as effective as necessary, water officials closed off the reservoir Coyote Lake, a 4-mile-long reservoir in the hills east of Morgan Hill, CA, because of an unsuspected algae outbreak and drought issues, according to The Mercury News,

The Mercury News reported that around this time of year, the Santa Clara Valley Water District relies heavily on water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta for its supplies.

This year, however, high levels of algae in the Delta, and other nearby lakes used for drinking water, began having an “earthy taste and smell” in late June.

"Once we started getting complaints, we immediately switched to a different source, and that took care of it," Bruce Cabral, water quality manager for the district told The Mercury News.

Cabral added that the water was always safe to drink and meets all federal and state health standards. Still, the algae problem has caused the water district to work quickly to assess the problem.

The EPA’s strategic plan for addressing the risk of toxic algae was developed in response to an algae bloom on Lake Erie in 2014, according to the Detroit News. The outbreak of algae caused drinking water in Toledo, OH, to have high levels of the bacteria known as microcystin.

To read more about toxic algae visit Water Online’s Nutrient Removal Solutions Center.