Scientists have developed new technology to help protect drinking water in the Great Lakes Basin.

The city of Monroe, Mich., like so many coastal communities within the Great Lakes Basin, relies on water drawn directly from one of the five Great Lakes: in this case, Lake Erie.

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Locations of Communities drawing Water From Lake Erie. Provided by Dr. Mark Rowe, University of Michigan

Chris Knight, superintendent of Monroe’s water treatment plant, oversees the production and daily delivery of drinking water to 48,000 customers in the city of Monroe and surrounding communities.

They work in a facility originally built in the 1920s. The plant draws, on average, 7–7.5 million gallons of water directly from Lake Erie per day for treatment. …

Scientists apply cutting-edge technologies to monitor algal blooms in Lake Erie and the upper Great Lakes.

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Lake Superior shoreline, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan USA

In the summer of 2014 the city of Toledo instituted a days long water consumption ban for the approximately 500,000 customers they serve in northwest Ohio. A bloom of Microcystis algae in Lake Erie’s western basin, in the vicinity of the city’s water intake station, led to the water consumption ban.

Microcystis, sometimes referred to as a blue-green algae, is one of a number of cyanobacteria genera capable of producing microcystin, a class of toxins that are potentially harmful to humans and other animals following consumption of toxin-containing water.

Such cyanobacteria blooms, different from from non-toxic nuisance algal blooms, are often referred to as harmful algal blooms (HAB). …

Coverage of these enigmatic organisms can be confusing when it comes to discussing climate change.

What do pond scum, the green in green swimming pools and the Nori wrapped around your sushi have in common? They’re all algae. Algae are having a moment right now in the public discourse, mostly related to climate change, and it’s mostly not favorable.

Populations of algae have exploded in bodies of water in Florida popular with people for recreation, and in Lake Erie in the northern United States. Green mats of algae are increasingly common sights along ocean and freshwater beaches, and algal toxins have been reported entering Toledo’s drinking water sourced from Lake Erie. …


Kurt Williams

Kurt Williams, DVM, PhD, is a veterinary pathologist with an interest in science and environmental reporting.

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