Monday, August 12, 2013

Harmful algae makes Erie debut

Harry Leslie, operations manager of Presque Isle State Park, knows all about harmful 2011 algae blooms that kept swimmers out of the water and covered boats with a green slime 230 miles away in Port Clinton, Ohio.

Now, scientists have confirmed the presence of a harmful algae bloom in Presque Isle Bay, just a stone's throw away from Pennsylvania's busiest state park. And that, said Leslie, has his full attention. Algae aren't all created equal.

Steven Mauro, dean of the Morosky College of Health Professions and Sciences at Gannon University, said typical mats of green algae teem with bacteria. But most of it, he said, isn't harmful to humans.

As the name suggests, an HAB, or harmful algae bloom, is different. The algae -- characterized by its blue-green color that can look like paint on the surface of the water -- is capable of producing a toxin known as microcystin, which can lead to illness or death for humans or animals.

Mauro said scientists have known for some time that the potential for an algae bloom was lurking unseen in the waters near Erie.

Mauro, who received a research grant from Pennsylvania Sea Grant to study the algae, said he was not surprised by recent confirmation by the state Department of Environmental Protection that a small-scale HAB find had been made in the waters of the bay. Tests to confirm its presence had indicated blooms would likely develop.

Evidence of the bloom could be seen Tuesday near Perry's Landing and near the head of the bay along the eastern edge of Presque Isle State Park.

More rain and a particular combination of weather factors could prompt the bloom to spread, but Mauro isn't overly worried, noting that the algae thrives in the slower-moving waters of the bay.

Erie Times-News
08 Aug 2013
J Martin