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Report: Toxic Algae Problems More Common Across Nation

PHOTO: An increase in fertilizer runoff from agriculture, along with more severe weather, is leading to a larger number of reports of toxic algae blooms in the United States. The algae can make people ill and kill animals or pets. CREDIT: Ben Townsend
PHOTO: An increase in fertilizer runoff from agriculture, along with more severe weather, is leading to a larger number of reports of toxic algae blooms in the United States. The algae can make people ill and kill animals or pets. CREDIT: Ben Townsend
September 30, 2013

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - A new analysis shows a growing scourge of harmful algae blooms across the nation. Andy Buchsbaum directs the Great Lakes office of the National Wildlife Federation, which studied the issue. He said 21 states issued health warnings about toxic algae this summer, covering about 150 locations on lakes, rivers and reservoirs.

"Normal algae is bad enough. It gums up your boat motor. It's yucky to swim in and it's unpleasant. But this toxic algae actually threatens people's health and threatens the health of animals and pets that go in the water. So it's really something to be alarmed about that we're experiencing this many across the country," Buchsbaum said.

The increase in the toxic algae across the country is twofold, he said, starting with more fertilizer runoff, especially from farm fields. Their nutrients feed the algae.

"There is more and more forms of phosphorus and nitrogen that are running off from a variety of sources, but particularly from agriculture, from farmers' fields. And we also know that there are more severe storms that are occurring. That means there's larger pulses of rainwater, particularly, that push these nutrients into these water bodies," he explained.

Buchsbaum said since this is a national problem, it requires a national solution. He suggested it include standards for nutrients in water bodies, along with resources in the Farm Bill to give farmers added incentives for being good stewards of the land and water.

Maps of algae blooms and the full report are available at http://www.toxicalgaenews.com/.

Jerry Oster, Public News Service - SD