BUFFALO, N.Y. — Congressman Brian Higgins asked the Environmental Protections Agency to increase efforts to fight harmful algae blooms in Lake Erie. They are usually more common in the western portion portion of the lake, but George Bullerjahn, a biology professor at Bowling Green State University, found a bloom just northeast of Erie, PA.
"It was unusual to see them in the eastern part of the lake where the conditions are less favorable. We were surprised," Bullerjahn said.
Microcystis at the surface of the eastern basin, NE of Erie (42.3, -80.026) @PlanktonScience @McKayGLIER. Very calm day, but I wasn’t expecting to see this @BGSU @ohioseagrant #csmi #lakeguardian #shipboardscience pic.twitter.com/UHF4QhdxWI— George Bullerjahn (@GBullerjahn) July 10, 2019
This is one of the first times a bloom has been discovered this close to Buffalo. Bullerjahn speculated the algae is run off from a bloom in Presque Isle in Erie, PA or a small phenomenon that he just happened to catch. The toxic algae grows best in warm, shallow water full of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous. The eastern side of Lake Erie is deeper than the West side, therefore algae is less common.
"Harmful algal blooms are one of the biggest threats to our drinking water," said Chris Murawski, the Director of Community Engagement at Buffalo Niagara WaterKeeper.
But don't worry. Bullerjahn said this is nothing to be alarmed about, just something to be aware of.
"This is a very small patch of water. This is not a health threat at all. It just shows these kind of events can happen here," Bullerjahn said.
If the water you're around looks like there was a green paint spill or like it's pea soup, avoid it and call the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's hot line.
The Buffalo Niagara WaterKeeper consistently monitors the algae levels in Lake Erie and the surrounding waterways. You can help yourself by making sure you don't give the algae nutrients to grow.
"Use less lawn fertilizer on your lawn, especially if you live along waterways. Don't mow your lawn to the edge of the waterway, leave a buffer," Murawski said.
With less nutrients, algae growth should be less of a concern. As for this summer, Bullerjahn said the water should be okay.
"I would expect it to be a typical summer," said Bullerjahn.