Storing manure, waste water treatment, and preventing nutrient runoff are some of the issues researchers worked to address last year as part of the Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative.
The researchers released their annual report on September 13 detailing their findings and potential solutions for communities in Ohio. According to report.
“This research is important for two reasons: first, because there is a risk to health and a responsibility to maintain a healthy ecosystem; Second, this research is important because it really provides actionable information to help people change their behavior, ”said Christopher Winslow, director of the Ohio Sea Grant College Program.
Algal blooms in freshwater lakes like Lake Erie occur every year, but have become more frequent over the years due to increased phosphorus runoff from farms into the lake. Algae, which produces the harmful toxin microcystin, feed on phosphorus and thrive at high temperatures, both of which are getting worse due to climate change, Winslow said.
“The models show that we are going to see high temperatures in this region, but we are also going to see more severe and severe storms in the fall and spring,” Winslow said. “Unfortunately, the nutrients that come in in the spring will cause a bloom that will start to grow in late spring and summer.”
A study found that 98 percent of farmland in the Maumee watershed area near Toledo, Ohio, had a very low risk of nutrient runoff, and researchers identified the remaining two percent of agricultural land, making it easy to target land for nutrient runoff management and ultimately helping to determine where algal blooms might be originating from.
The initiative was created in 2015 following the Toledo Water 2014 Crisis, when around half a million people in the Toledo area were warned not to drink or cook with tap water because of toxins produced by a harmful algal bloom in Lake Erie, directly on Toledo water intake pipe.
The initiative is funded by the Ohio Department of Higher Education with matching contributions from participating universities including the University of Cincinnati, Akron University, and Bowling Green State University, among others. It is administered by the State of Ohio through the Ohio Sea Grant College program and the University of Toledo.
Further studies involve investigating how the residual material left after water treatment could allow toxins to seep into production and studying the effects of algae toxins on patients with liver disease.
In the most recent budget bill, funding for the initiative was increased by $ 1 million, Randy Gardner, chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education, said in an email.
Winslow cited a to study conducted as part of the initiative that determined which storage methods were best for reducing the phosphorus content in manure, a finding the researchers shared with Ohio residents in the Ohio Country Journal.