Image courtesy of NOAA
Editor’s note: this article was written by Ray Stewart, President of Ohio Wetlands Association and Dr. William J. Mitsch, Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University; Director, Olentangy River Wetland Research Park, OSU; Eminent Scholar and Director, Everglades Wetland Research Park; Founding Editor-in-Chief, Ecological Engineering
Officials may be hedging their responses to the latest water crisis in the western Lake Erie basin but there is no mystery to what is going on. While the investigation into specifics about this particular spike have not been completed, the general causes are well understood.
Too many nutrients, especially phosphorus, have made their way into the water. Agricultural fertilizers, septic systems, sewage treatment plants and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are all contributors. These nutrients, combined with the long day lengths and the warmer temperatures of summer, create the perfect incubator for algae and especially Mycrosistis cyanobacteria that produce toxic substances.