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.

Some local (South African) scientists have maintained that cyanobacterial toxins do not accumulate in fish.  Various studies have shown this viewpoint to be incorrect, not least one from Africa.  Fertilizer-loaded runoff from farmland and wastewater from cities drains into freshwater lakes around the world, feeding blue-green algae that produce toxins called microcystins. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that untreated drinking water accounts for 80% of human exposure to the toxic family of peptides. Now scientists report another exposure route that may be significant: eating freshwater fish.  This finding was reported at SIL2010 in Cape Town and has now been published.

Actually doing something to offset eutrophication is difficult, but for inexplicable technical or economic reasons.  From Madison (Wisconsin) comes a clever letter that decries the lack of positive attempts to do something for Lakes Mendota, Monona, Kegonsa and Wingra.  The letter highlights the need for informed public involvement in persuading the authorities to get off their backsides and get to work.  “So perhaps it is time for a lakes intervention. A conscious, public end to our shared self-delusion. A gang confession that our Mendota, Monona, Kegonsa and Wingra are our Dirty Little Secret. Only then can we get to a place, in a polarized political time, where we come together, government, citizens and business alike, to solve a problem we all share. The newly formed Clean Lakes Alliance could be the start we need“.

From the northern shore of Lake Ontario comes another warning from Pigeon Lake.  From Otago (New Zealand) come warnings that Southland’s Waituna Lagoon could “flip” – turn irreversibly septic – with the next heavy downpour high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in sediments are threatening to flip the lagoon from being an ecosystem with clear water and populated by aquatic plants and a range of fish species to one with murky, turbid water dominated by algae.  Detergents are the third largest source of phosphate discharge into surface water, behind agriculture and sewage. Laundry is the largest contributor in the detergent sector. Alternative water-softening ingredients are available, although their effectiveness varies.

The Pardeeville Village (Wisconsin, the state of many many lakes) Board to pursue strategies for improving water quality at Park Lake. The plan includes three basic components: a water quality monitoring plan, an in-lake restoration plan and a watershed management plan (for the water around the lake where, if a raindrop falls, it eventually ends up in the lake).

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