30 June 2011

OK, lets get June up to date while its still June!

Lets start in Nova Scotia where algal scum has been noticed creeping across the top of Yarmouth County’s Lake Vaughan. Other Yarmouth County lakes including Ogden and Fanning are also reported to be in bloom.  Geographically close-by in Washington, the latest samples from Anderson Lake contain more than 1,000 times the safe level of a potent neurotoxin, the highest level of the algae-created poison seen at the popular fishing hole since it set a deadly world record in 2008.  Test results received Friday showed 1,112 micrograms per liter of anatoxin-a, for which the safe level is 1 microgram per liter. “It’s the most since 2008,” said Greg Thomason, Jefferson County environmental health specialist. In 2008, Anderson Lake water contained 172,640 micrograms per liter of anatoxin-a!  Green Lake (also in Washington) has three types of cyanobacteria present and toxins. Read more »

Scientist denied access to water quality data

30 June 2011

Some months ago I suggested in this forum a use for the now defunct Athlone Power Station in Cape Town.  This centered on using the massive complex for treating the effluent from the adjacent Athlone Sewage Works to a much higher quality.  In associated correspondence I expressed the opinion that the Athlone works was one, if not the poorest, performing treatment works in Cape Town.  In this regard I need to point out that I worked for the City as Hydrobiologist for a decade and have a fair idea as to which sewage plants are better than others.

Recently I needed and asked for data to follow-up on the removal of P from detergents issue.  Yesterday, I learnt that the department that manages wastewater treatment ignored the constructive suggestion that I made and instead took offence to my opinion on the treatment ability of their Athlone works. Their (not communicated to me) response to this was to instruct the Directorate of Scientific Services that I be denied access to data, gathered in the public interest using ratepayers money I might add! Read more »

South African detergents are P-free! Why the big secret?

30 June 2011

It has this week come to light that Unilever, South Africa’s largest manufacturer and supplier of laundry detergents, replaced the phosphorus in their products with sodium carbonate back during 2010.  Oddly, they did not tell anyone about this until they were interviewed about the topic last week!  Read more »


29 June 2011

Early morning in the Karoo, South Africa (Photo: Bill Harding)

CyanoAlert has had a couple of quiet days as I have been away working in the very cold Karoo (Google it, its a fascinating place).

Scientific interest into the possible links between cyanobacteria and motor neuron disease (MND) continue to gain momentum with a new publication from Dartmouth University.

The American summer continues to warm up.  Oregon (Roseburg) veterinarians are warning dog owners that blue-green algae blooms in lakes, ponds and rivers are a potential hazard as we get into the summer.  Lost Creek Lake, also in Oregon, has had an Alert Level posted.  Scathing criticism was leveled Thursday at the South Florida Water Management District for what environmental, tourism and political officials called its bias toward agriculture and failure to release fresh water to help the static, scum-filled Caloosahatchee River.  See other concerns about how algae could damage economics in South Florida.  Toxic algal blooms have not happened yet but are predicted for Lake Erie.

Read more »

CyanoAlert – economic impacts & toxins in fish!

24 June 2011

Not-so-Grand Lake St Mary’s has shown now directly proved that algal blooms have a direct impact on the economic viability of lake-related business. Businesses hurt by the cyanobacteria outbreak on Grand Lake St. Marys are eligible for low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration. “Grand Lake St. Marys is an important economic driver in western Ohio. When the lake is affected, so are the Ohio businesses that surround it.”  The socio-economic impacts of degraded lake water quality have not received enough attention – which is a pity as it plays a major part in influencing proper lake management. Read more »

Municipalities should lead by example…

22 June 2011

The Cape Town suburban press (Tatler etc) recently reported on the abominable conditions in the aptly-named Black River.  As with so many rivers in or downstream of built-up areas, wastewater effluents are a major source of contamination. Read more »

CyanoAlert – Lost Creek Lake

21 June 2011

Lost Creek Lake is back on the alert list again. A health advisory has been issued to avoid contact with the water at Lost Creek Lake on the Rogue River 30 miles northeast of Medford because of a bloom of toxin-producing blue-green algae.  This article includes a useful summary of the things to look out for in a lake that contains toxic algae.  Beaches at Buckeye Lake remain off-limits. Read more »


18 June 2011

Ok, who doesn't love warthogs?

The algal advisory at Buckeye Lake, in terms of the new Ohio provisions for these warnings, remains in place and has been expanded (see here). “The algal bloom advisory against swimming at Brooks Beach is the result of the Environmental Protection Agency spotting a harmful algal bloom in the lake May 31. The advisory against swimming or wading was posted June 1, but swimmers are not physically removed if they choose to stay”.  “Harmful algal blooms capable of producing toxin have been spotted at Crystal, Fairfield and Brooks beaches, prompting the new warnings at the beaches in Licking and Fairfield counties“. Read more »


16 June 2011

Nodularia spumigena bloom (Photo: Bill Harding)

A day or so ago I mentioned snake oil remedies for eutrophic lakes.  Here’s another one that crops up from time to time – adding silica to lakes to supposedly promote the growth of diatoms (which use silica to build their cell walls) and outcompete noxious algae such as blue-greens.  Apparently it has been tried (without success) in Not So Grand Lake St Marys (Ohio).   This notion is nothing other than stupid and demonstrates a blinding lack of understanding of a whole lot of biology, not least algal physiology, periodicity, seasonal succession and so the list goes on.  How lake managers let themselves into this “blind leading the blind” situation is hard to tell – but it seems to happen repeatedly. Bottom-up management of nature has few options that will work without making a bigger mess.  Of course, Ohio is also where non-contact with water containing cyanobacteria rules have been relaxed. Hopefully for them the epidemiological studies don’t link BMAA to recreational exposure – if they do, well their ambulance-chasing lawyers will have a field-day! Read more »


16 June 2011

Photo: Bill Harding

What’s polluting our lakes” is the heading of a news article from Upper Deerfield Township in the US.  A singularly-important question from which, typically, follows an analysis of all potential contributing sources in the catchment.  A couple of years ago I co-authored a protocol for doing just this, a document that includes simple modelling tools for assessing nutrient loads and by how much they should be reduced to meet water quality targets. Read more »