ust three weeks into summer, 15 states from coast to coast (see list below) have already issued health warnings or advisories related to harmful algal blooms (HABs) in more than 25 lakes and reservoirs. Toxic algae can produce liver and nerve toxins that make people and pets sick, and even kill dogs.

Last year’s drought, followed by floods this spring, has increased the volume of chemical fertilizer and manure from crops and livestock operations that is entering waterways. Scientists caution that these conditions will result in an increased number of HABs and associated lake closures. For example, on July 2nd, NOAA issued the 2013 Lake Erie HAB forecast predicting a bloom that is larger than last year. In addition to public health threats, toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie are anticipated to have a significant effect on local economies by reducing lake related tourism.

In the absence of a national system for reporting advisories or warnings, Resource Media, a nonprofit communications firm, is tracking and announcing the health alerts via Twitter at @nitrogennews with the hashtag #toxicalgae as they occur. Stay tuned for an online map illustrating the alerts, which will be released by July 15th.

California – Copco Reservoir
Florida – Lake Harris
Idaho – Fernan Lake
Indiana – Hardy State Lake Recreation Area
Iowa – Lake Macbride, south arm
Kansas – Logan City Lake, Marion Reservoir, Memorial Park Lake (Veterans Lake), Milford Reservoir, South Lake
Kentucky – Taylorsville Lake
Massachusetts – Lake Attitash
Nebraska – Lone Star Lake
New York – Craine Lake, Lake Neatahwanata, Tuscarora Lake, Lake Lincolndale, Lake Sunnyside, Smith Pond, Beaver Lake, Oneida Lake
Ohio – C.J. Brown Reservoir, East Fork Lake, Grand Lake St. Marys
Oklahoma – Lake Texoma
Oregon – Willow Creek Reservoir, Lost Creek Lake, Dexter Reservoir
Vermont – Lake Champlain
Washington – Anderson Lake, Rufus Woods Lake, Spanaway Lake, Waughop Lake, Lake Wilderness, Hideaway Lake

Last summer, at least 20 states issued health warnings advising people and their pets to stay out of water at specific lakes and rivers where toxic algae spread in dangerous levels. More states may have released warnings, but the lack of a national reporting system makes them difficult to track. In fact, toxic blue-green algae was reported in nearly every state in the US as it spread from late summer to fall. In July 2012, two dogs died hours after they jumped into an algae-infested Indiana lake where no warning signs had been posted, highlighting the need for increased federal attention and action to mitigate the growing problem.

Congress’s recent failure to re-authorize the Farm Bill jeopardizes funding for programs like the Conservation Stewardship program and the Environmental Quality Incentives program aimed at helping farmers protect water quality through implementation of agricultural best management practices. Those include planting cover crops, restoring wetlands or creating buffer strips to filter farm runoff.

Much of the chemical fertilizer and manure runoff that feeds algae blooms in the nation’s Midwest lakes flows into the Mississippi river and then contributes to the Gulf of Mexico dead zone, which has been predicted to be the largest ever in 2013. The dead zone costs Gulf fishermen and communities tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue each year.

Source: Press Release – Resource Media

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