2013 Briefing Recap: Harmful Algal Blooms in the Great Lakes

On Monday, June 17, 2013 the NEMWI coordinated a briefing on Harmful Algal Blooms in the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Task Force Co-chairs–Reps. Candice Miller, John Dingell, Sean Duffy, Louise Slaughter and Sens. Carl Levin and Mark Kirk–served as honorary co-sponsors of the briefing. Dr. Jeff Reutter, Director of Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Lab with Ohio State University (presentation here), and Mr. Mike Shelton, Sustainability Manager for Scotts Miracle-Gro Company (presentation here), presented. The speakers discussed history, current research, and mitigation efforts for algal blooms in the Great Lakes. Specifically, the speakers highlighted how today’s problem differs from past problems, in that the majority of the nutrients going into the lake today originate from non-point sources, like agricultural runoff, whereas the main source of nutrients in the 1960s and 70s originated from point sources, like sewage treatment plants. They noted that the ability to predict algal blooms has improved, as researchers at NOAA, Heidelberg University, the University of Toledo, and Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Lab at Ohio State University have narrowed the critical loading period for phosphorus to cause Harmful Algal Blooms in the western basin to 1 March to 30 June. Predictions for 2012 accurately predicted the bloom level experienced. The prediction for 2013 will be announced on July 2 in a press briefing at Stone Laboratory followed by a webinar open to the public. Additionally, speakers detailed the work to remove phosphorus, the key trigger to algal blooms in freshwater, from all lawn maintenance products produced by Scotts-Miracle Gro, although nutrients from lawn runoff only amount to about 2% of total nutrient input. More detailed summaries of the briefing are available here and here.