09.28.17

Port Huron Times Herald: U.S. Senate approves legislation to combat Great Lakes algal blooms

The U.S, Senate has approved bipartisan legislation to protect the Great Lakes from algal blooms, according to a news release from Sen. Gary Peters' office.

Peters helped introduce The Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act. It will reauthorize federal efforts to combat the negative impacts algal blooms have on drinking water, recreation and fishing in the Great Lakes including Lakes Erie and St. Clair.

“The Great Lakes provide drinking water to over 40 million people and are the center of Michigan’s multi-billion dollar fishing, shipping and tourism industries,” said Peters in the news release. “This bipartisan legislation will continue providing the necessary resources to address harmful algal blooms and the significant burdens they place on coastal communities in Michigan and across the country and ensure the Great Lakes are protected for future generations.”

Lake Erie is the water source for the South County Water District, which provides drinking water to southern Monroe County, Michigan. In August 2014, nearly 30,000 customers in Monroe County were affected by a water use ban due to contaminants from toxins produced by algal blooms in Lake Erie.

Blue-green algae produce microcystins, toxins that in large quantities can cause skin rashes on contact and liver damage when swallowed. Microcystins have been responsible for wildlife and pet deaths, but no known human deaths, according to a report from the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

A blue-green algae bloom in 2014 forced Toledo to issue a boil-water or do-not-drink advisory to about 500,000 people. 

Todd Steele, a professional bass angler, was sick for three months after getting the blue-green algae on his skin during back-to-back bass tournaments in Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie at the end of July in 2015.

"Just from handling the fish, landing them and putting them into my live well, that water got on my skin and into my system," he told the Times Herald in 2016.

The illness kept him from getting outside, or on the water, for the rest of the summer and into the fall, he said.

"A lot of that was taking place, not to point fingers, on the Canadian side up the Thames River," he said. "You could see it coming right out of the Thames River."

The Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act:

  • Reauthorizes the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act, which has served as the primary federal tool to combat algae blooms since its enactment in 1998, through Fiscal Year 2022;
  • Adds the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the Federal Task Force on Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia, which is responsible for addressing federal response to algae bloom incidents; and
  • Requires a scientific assessment report submitted to Congress on marine and freshwater harmful algae blooms, including in the Great Lakes.

By:  Bob Gross
Source: Port Huron Times Herald