Toxic algae could contaminate WNY drinking water

Toxic Algae Blooms

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Lake Erie has come a long way since it was declared dead decades ago, but all of that may be at risk once again.

Jill Jedlicka, Executive Director, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, said, “Lake Erie is dying again. It was declared dead in 1970; it took 20 years to see the recovery that took place. Now we are starting to go in the other direction.”

Toxic algae blooms are growing on the western side of the lake and it’s coming towards Western New York.

Senator Charles Schumer said, “They look nice. They have an innocuous blue-green appearance. But they are very problematic because they generate something called cyanotoxins; those sound bad and they are.”

The algae feeds off of phosphorus, which is often found in fertilizers. This winter’s freeze-thaw cycle caused rapid melting and increased runoff from farms into the lake. A wet spring is now making the problem worse.

Senator Schumer wants the Environmental Protection Agency to put the algae on its official contaminant list.

He said, “The EPA should tell us the level that we have to worry about how do we test for it and how do we treat it so we get below the safe levels simple for them to do and probably won’t be that expensive but they haven’t done it.”

He also wants to add the Great Lakes to the USDA’s list of conservation areas. That would open up $200 million that was set aside in the Farm Bill for conservation.

The money could be used by farmers to help prevent the runoff that feeds the algae.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, “That would have a tremendous impact on our local economy with regards to sport fishing and just the availability to ensure that the water we drink and the water we swim in is safe.”

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