Expert explains algae blooms in West Michigan waters after dangerous Toledo incidents

WEST MICHIGAN, Mich.  –While officials in Ohio declared the water safe to drink Monday in the Toledo area, the concerns are still far from over and officials there say it’s an issue they will need to continue to address.

It stemmed from runoff from things like fertilizer from farm fields or sewage with abnormal levels of phosphorus, creating a toxic blue-green algae. In Lake Erie the mix of wind and waves moved it to the water intake crib, something that has never happened before.

Experts here in West Michigan say it’s not something we have to worry about when it comes to Lake Michigan, where several local communities get their water.

Alan Steinman with the Annis Water Resources Institute at Grand Valley State University says the conditions on Lake Michigan are far different from Lake Erie. For instance, Lake Michigan is colder and deeper, unlike the warmer temperatures that encourage algal growth.

“There is enough dilution, it’s cold enough and there are not enough nutrients to sustain these kinds of blooms,” he said.

There was an algae bloom on Muskegon Lake Monday, something Steinman says is common during the summer months on inland lakes and drowned river mouth lakes like Lake Macatawa, but nothing on the same scale as Ohio.

“It won’t persist for a very long period of time but while it’s calm and hot that’s the conditions they really like to grow in.”

Steinman says there’s still a social and economic implication and it’s an indicator there are too many nutrients in our system.

“Not just Muskegon Lake, not just Lake Macatawa but getting into Lake Michigan as well we need to address this problem, it’s really symbolized right now in Lake Erie . All of us have a responsibility to be good stewards of our watersheds, can’t just place the blame on our producers we also have to look in the mirror ourselves,” he said.

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