The state has issued its first toxic algae warning along Lake Erie this summer. The warning was issued at Maumee Bay State Park after samples collected on July 21 showed high concentrations of microcystin, a liver toxin associated with blue-green algae.
Orange signs warning of toxic algae went up along Lake Erie on Thursday - the first of the summer.
The state issued the advisory at Maumee Bay State Park's Lake Erie beach after samples collected on July 21 showed high concentrations of microcystin, a liver toxin associated with blue-green algae.
Readings measured 7.1 parts per billion. The state's safety threshold is 6 parts per billion.
"It looks like it's building up pretty intensively," said Carol Stepien, director of the University of Toledo Lake Erie Center, which helps monitor the lake's algae. "You can see it right out the window here, and it's starting to look pretty nasty."
Signs advise older and younger people, as well as those with weakened immune systems, not to swim or wade in the water. However, the beach remains open and beachgoers can still swim, said Mark Bruce, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
At the same time, E.??coli levels at the beach soared this week as well. According to the Ohio Department of Health, officials measured 2,219 colonies of E. coli per 100 milliliters of water at the beach.
The federal safety threshold is 235 colonies. Other states close beaches when they exceed that threshold. Ohio does not. Yesterday, there were E.??coli warnings posted at 32 Ohio beaches, mostly along Lake Erie.
Sewage overflows, manure from farm runoff, failing home septic systems and feces from geese and gulls contribute to E. coli problems. If ingested, E. coli can cause gastrointestinal distress, such as diarrhea, vomiting and stomach cramps.
Cyanobacteria, also called blue-green algae, are common in most Ohio lakes. They grow thick by feeding on phosphorus from manure, fertilizer and sewage that rain washes from farm fields into nearby streams.
As many as 19 public lakes, including central Ohio's Buckeye Lake, have been tainted in recent years by toxic algae.
State and federal experts predicted earlier this month that Lake Erie will experience significant toxic algae this summer.
The harmful algae started showing up in the area a few weeks ago, said Ken Gibbons, a graduate student researcher at the Lake Erie Center. He and others at the center will track the algae in the coming weeks.
Last summer, the lake's bloom was the second-worst on record and threatened drinking-water supplies in Toledo and other areas around the lake. This year, scientists predict the bloom will exceed one-fourth the size of the 2011 bloom, which stretched from Toledo to Cleveland.
Lake Erie is more shallow and warmer than the other Great Lakes, which makes it a prime spot for toxic algae, which can cause skin rashes, nausea and diarrhea. They also can cause "dead zones," where there is no oxygen. No wildlife can survive in those zones.
Blooms typically affect the western part of the lake.
State agencies have been pushing for better farming practices in northwestern Ohio as part of the Clean Lakes Initiative in hopes of reducing the farm runoff that fuels algal blooms, Bruce said.
"The health of Lake Erie is vital," he said. "This problem wasn't created overnight and it won't be fixed overnight, but the state is working diligently to improve the water quality up there."
Currently, there also are algae warnings at Grand Lake St. Marys in western Ohio.