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Multiple beaches issue advisories due to severe Lake Erie algal bloom, bacteria

Posted: 1:18 PM, Aug 22, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-22 13:18:44-04
Several Northeast Ohio beaches closed due to E. coli detected in Lake Erie

CLEVELAND — Many beaches have issued contamination advisories due to the massive algal bloom on Lake Erie and the presence of bacteria.

The following beaches have issued a Recreational Public Health Advisory due to the presence of an algal bloom and/or algal toxins:

  • Bay Park Beach- Cuyahoga County
  • Columbia Park Beach- Cuyahoga County

The following beaches have issued a Contamination Advisory due to the level of bad bacteria in the water:

  • Fairport Harbor- Lake County
  • Headlands State Park- Lake County
  • Moss Point Beach-Cuyahoga County
  • Arcadia Beach- Cuyahoga County
  • Huntington Beach- Cuyahoga County
  • Veteran's Beach- Lorain County
  • Century Beach-Lorain County
  • Lakeview Beach- Lorain County
  • Oberlin Beach- Erie County

What the advisories mean

The state of Ohio issues two types of Recreational Water Advisories depending upon the level of Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) toxins in such waters:

  • A Recreational Public Health Advisory is posted when toxin levels exceed the recommended threshold, and beach signs warn that an algal bloom is present and/or algal toxins have been detected. Swimming or wading is not recommended for children, pregnant or nursing women, those with certain medical conditions and pets.
  • An Elevated Recreational Public Health Advisory is posted when toxin levels exceed the recommended threshold. Beach signs note that all contact with water should be avoided and algal toxins at unsafe levels have been detected.

A Contamination Alert is posted when the level of bad bacteria in the water has reached unsafe levels and could make swimmers sick, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are advised not to swim.

Algal bloom in Springfield Lake
Algal bloom in Springfield Lake

What is an algal bloom?

An algal bloom is a rapid increase or accumulation in the population of algae in freshwater or marine water systems, and is recognized by the discoloration in the water from their pigments.

Dr. Rick Stumpf, an oceanographer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said algal blooms "are caused by something called Cyanobacteria or blue-green algae."

Several factors influenced blooms this year in Lake Erie. Calm winds in July gave algal toxins the freedom to accumulate at the surface. Strong winds in August have since mixed the blooms with deeper waters.

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Algal bloom that can be seen from space

An image from NASA’s Operational Land Imager on July 30 revealed the algae bloom covered about 300 square miles of Lake Erie’s surface.

By Aug. 13, the bloom spread across 620 square miles—approximately seven times larger than the size of Cleveland, which is 82.47 square miles.

erie_oli_2019211_lrg.jpg
This image shows the bloom on July 30, 2019, as observed by the Operational Land Imager on the Landsat 8 satellite.

RELATED: Photo: Lake Erie algal bloom is now so large that it can be seen from space