Editor’s note: This is an important issue for Pennsylvania. The algae is problematic for Erie County as a tourist destination and as a wildlife refuge (Presque Isle State Park).
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — It was the largest algae bloom in Lake Erie‘s recorded history — a scummy, toxic blob that oozed across nearly one-fifth of the lake’s surface in the summer and fall of 2011. It sucked oxygen from the water, clogged boat motors and washed ashore in rotting masses that turned beach-goers’ stomachs.
It also was likely an omen of things to come, experts said in a study released earlier this year. The warming climate and modern farming practices are creating ideal conditions for gigantic algae formations on Lake Erie, which could be potentially disastrous to the surrounding area’s multi-billion-dollar tourist economy. The shallowest and southernmost of the Great Lakes, Erie contains just 2 percent of their combined waters but about half their fish.
According to the report, which was compiled by more than two-dozen scientists, the 2011 runaway bloom was fueled by phosphorus-laden fertilizers that were swept from corn and soybean fields during heavy rainstorms. Weak currents and calm winds prevented churning and flushing that could have short-circuited its rampant growth.