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Track Blooms from the Source | Ohio Sea Grant

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Track Blooms from the Source

These projects aim to improve existing technologies and develop new methods to track algal blooms from start to finish, ensuring a healthy environment

Projects in this focus area aim to improve use of existing technologies as well as develop new methods to detect, prevent and mitigate harmful algal blooms and their impacts. This will help to ensure drinking water safety and a healthy environment for lakeshore residents by scientifically connecting many of the potential causes and effects of harmful algal blooms, from the farm field runoff that fuels them to the toxins that contaminate water supplies.

Projects

HAB Detection, Mapping and Warning Network: Maumee Bay Area

Principal Investigator

Thomas Bridgeman, University of Toledo


Project Summary

Harmful algal blooms often produce toxins that need to be filtered out of the water before it can be safe to drink. Currently, water treatment plants such as in Toledo, Ohio only detect these toxins in Lake Erie water when they’re already pulling the water into the plant. Since that’s not enough time to switch treatment techniques, they have to use expensive, generic techniques to ensure clean water for customers.

A team led by Thomas Bridgeman, an associate professor of environmental sciences at the University of Toledo, is developing a warning system for water treatment plants that gives them 12-24 hours of lead time before water reaches the intake in Lake Erie, allowing them to adjust treatment protocols accordingly.

By combining water quality sensors with environmental monitoring, this early warning system can be thought of as working toward a “weather radar” for harmful algal blooms, which could reduce water treatment costs during the bloom season.

The Bottom Line

Clean drinking water for communities and money savings for water plants that will be able to apply powdered activated carbon in a more targeted fashion.

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HAB Detection, Mapping, and Warning Network: Sandusky Bay

Principal Investigator

George Bullerjahn, Bowling Green State University


Project Summary

Harmful algal blooms often produce toxins that need to be filtered out of the water before it can be safe to drink. Currently, these toxins are detected at the water intake for the water plant in Sandusky, Ohio, requiring potential overtreatment of incoming water to ensure toxins are eliminated before water is delivered to customers.

A research team led by George Bullerjahn of Bowling Green State University is developing a warning system for the water plants that extends early warning capacity to 12-24 hours before water reaches the water intake in Lake Erie, allowing water plants to adjust treatment protocols before water reaches the intake.

By combining water quality sensors with environmental conditions monitoring, this early warning system could allow researchers to develop models that can predict the conditions under which harmful algal bloom toxicity could present an imminent health concern.

The Bottom Line

Clean drinking water for Ohio residents and reduced costs for municipalities, using a system that can be expanded to other communities.

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Identifying the Best Strategy to Reduce Phosphorus Loads to Lake Erie from Agricultural Watersheds

Principal Investigator

Laura Johnson, Heidelberg University


Project Summary

Ohio researchers are working to identify the best strategies to reduce the amount of phosphorus that runs off farm fields that reside in the Lake Erie watershed to help improve the overall health of the Great Lake.

Experts say soluble phosphorus runoff from farms is an important source of harmful algal blooms plaguing Lake Erie and other lakes in recent years. In August, a toxic bloom in western Lake Erie led to a two-day drinking water ban in Toledo. As a result, this spring, Ohio, Michigan and Ontario, signed an agreement to work to reduce the phosphorus by 40 percent by the year 2025.

A research team led by Laura Johnson, a research scientist at Heidelberg University’s National Center for Water Quality Research, is using automated sampling equipment and sensors to test water samples throughout four watersheds — Rock and Honey Creeks (subwatersheds of the Sandusky), the upper Portage River watershed, and the Blanchard River (subwatershed of the Maumee) – to identify possible hotspot locations and different sources of phosphorus runoff that may contribute to loading into Lake Erie.

The team will provide this information to regional modeling experts to help update current watershed models and thus identify the most effective and innovative methods to lessen phosphorus from entering into the Lake Erie watershed.

The Bottom Line

Cleaner water and fewer harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie.

    |     Download Synopsis