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article imageToxic algae blooms are spreading across the U.S.

By Karen Graham     Jun 25, 2018 in Environment
From Oregon to New York, Virginia, and Florida, including many locations in between, toxic algae blooms in reservoirs lakes, and waterways have led to state officials issuing emergency declarations.
Harmful algal blooms (HABs) can contaminate the environment, drinking water, recreational water, and food. They are an emerging public health issue says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In Oregon, May was one of the hottest and driest months on record. And on May 8, an algae bloom was discovered in Detroit Lake - the source of Salem's drinking water. The heat was so intense, it caused the toxins to spread from the reservoir, into the North Santiam River and finally into Salem's drinking water for the first time at dangerous levels.
On June 6, Salem issued its second do-not-drink alert Wednesday for vulnerable populations following the discovery, for the second week in a row, of high levels of cyanotoxins in the drinking water.
Water-borne algal blooms can accumulate to concentrations that can pose health risks to people  pets...
Water-borne algal blooms can accumulate to concentrations that can pose health risks to people, pets and wildlife.
Tim Otten/Oregon State University
During the second week in June, New York state recorded 19 bodies of water with toxic algae blooms, from central New York to Manhattan, Brooklyn and Long Island. The number is now double what it was over Memorial Day weekend.
And just two days ago, the Kansas National Guard hauled 26 pallets of bottled water to a northwestern Kansas town where toxic algae has compromised the water supply. Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer declared a state of disaster emergency on Friday for the City of Norton due to harmful algae blooms in Sebelius Lake. The toxic algae is affecting the surface water intakes for the city's public water supply.
And in Southwestern Florida this week, avocado-colored water in the Caloosahatchee River laps at boat ramps as the algae bloom advances toward the Gulf of Mexico. This is the first algae bloom of 2018, but state officials have seen it coming for a long time.
Algae infestation in Florida in 2016.
Algae infestation in Florida in 2016.
John Cassani of Calusa Waterkeeper said, "It was just kind of like a powder keg ready to go off. All the factors were there and then when the Army Corps of Engineers increased the flows from Lake Okeechobee on June 1, and with the increasing temperature that accelerated the situation, and within the last three, four days, it's just taken off."
In 2016, when algae covered Florida's east coast and stained the Caloosahatchee green, Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency.
It's warming up earlier and staying warm
The Culprit behind the toxic algae blooms is called cyanobacteria, blue-green algae's scientific name. They are present everywhere bodies of water are found, byt they particularly thrive in warm water. Added to this one fact is that with the increasing use of fertilizers containing phosphorus and nitrates, there is the impact on water supplies from runoff when it rains.
More than 100 people fall ill thanks to toxic algae bloom covering nine tenths of Utah lake that has...
More than 100 people fall ill thanks to toxic algae bloom covering nine tenths of Utah lake that has turned water bright green.
So then we have these chemicals in our water supplies and they tend to lower the oxygen levels in the water, increasing the CO2 levels, which cyanobacteria have adapted to, actually thriving on it, according to research published in 2016 and reported on in Digital Journal.
"When water bodies warm up earlier and stay warmer longer ... you increase the number of incidents," said Wayne Carmichael, a retired Wright State University professor specializing in the organisms, according to "That's just logical, and it's being borne out."
The cyanobacteria are toxic, and it has long been known they will make animals sick or even kill them. In humans, high doses can cause liver damage and attack the nervous system. Bodies of water with high levels of these organisms have been known to sicken hundreds of people, as happened in Utah in 2016.
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