On Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) released its predictions for this summer’s algal blooms.
NOAA and its research partners predict that western Lake Erie will experience a less severe bloom than the record-setting one experienced last year during the harmful algal bloom season. The outlook reflects less discharge from the Maumee River and a return to an average nutrient runoff into the lake.
“So far, so good,” said Josh Snyder, Norwalk public works director, about the local situation.
“We’ve really tried to keep ahead of it,” he added.
In 2014, portions of the Norwalk reservoir were closed due to blue-green algae blooms.
“We’ve done some pre-treating on any spots we think need addressed before they become algal blooms,” Snyder said. “The staff has done a great job.”
Norwalk has been using an environmentally-friendly version of copper sulfate for the treating.
“We look for it everyday,” Snyder said. “We have an intern this summer who is studying biology. That is one of the main things she is doing. She is really focused on that (algae) and is doing a great job. We’re trying to be on the prevention side. She has a good background on the science side of it.”
Employee Jim Warner is the in-house expert at the water treatment plant, Snyder said.
“It really helps when the staff knows all the precursors,” he added.
Snyder doesn’t want to return to 2014 and the closing of a portion of the reservoir.
“In the spring of 2015, we kept the algae isolated,” he said. “We kept it at bay all summer. It helped doing some treating right where the source water comes in.”
This year’s bloom is expected to first appear in late July and increase in August in the far western basin of Lake Erie. The location and effects will depend on prevailing winds. During calm winds, some areas may experience scums that contain substantial concentrations of algal toxins, according to NOAA officials.
“This year we’ve added a Maumee River flow forecast model that increases our confidence in the seasonal outlook and may allow us to produce a specific harmful algal bloom forecast even earlier in the season,” said Russell Callender, Ph.D., assistant NOAA administrator for the National Ocean Service.
The seasonal outlook uses models that translate spring nutrient loading into predicted algal blooms. After three years with wet springs, this spring has had more typical rainfall, leading to more normal discharge from the Maumee River. As a result there is less phosphorus entering Lake Erie and fewer nutrients to fuel a bloom, officials added.