24 August 2011

A blue-green algae warning has been issued for Rocky Point Swim Beach at Fort Gibson Lake (Oklahoma), the Tulsa District of the Army Corps of Engineers announced. A warning means harmful algae blooms have been found, and the water is considered unsafe for people and pets. Read more »

CyanoAlert – Princess Vlei in the news!

23 August 2011

Princess Vlei viewed from the north, early 1990s

Princess Vlei is Cape Town’s third largest lake-type wetland environment (after Zeekoevlei and Zandvlei).  It has been seriously ignored for ever and its potential to become the focus of the local Retreat area.  When I used to routinely visit the vlei to collect samples (80s and 90s) it was a retreat for drug dealers and other nefarious types who were always hanging around the slipway.

Bill Harding in Africa's only, at that time, algal toxin laboratory (1993)

It was a useful lake at the time I started the first dedicated laboratory for algal toxins in Africa (!), this at the then Scientific Services Branch of the City Council.  The lake delivered a remarkably constant supply of toxic material that I could use to make up calibration standards.

It has been brought to my attention that debate has been taking place regarding a proposed development on the eastern shore of the lake, a shopping mall.  There has apparently been considerable public resistance to this and I learnt today that the City has has recognized the natural resources value of the vlei and backed off from its original pro-development stance.  Let us hope that the City  and actually now invests in rehabilitating the vlei and does not simply continue to ignore it!

An important issue is that lakes cannot be all things to all people, some form of workable balance must be identified and which ensures the mutual benefits of conservation and economic development, especially when the local authorities are unlikely to come forward with the money that is required to undertake the rehabilitation.

Back to CyanoAlert:

Dexter Reservoir in Lowell, Oregon, has been declared safe.  Also, continuing good news for Grand Lake St Mary’s,  new federal resources awarded today will help clean up Grant Lake St. Marys while creating clean energy jobs. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today announced $1 million for a methane digester project to reduce nutrient loading associated with toxic algae blooms, like the cyanobacteria in Grand Lake St. Marys. The funding was awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation Service`s Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program through a competitive process.  Recent studies on Grand Lake St. Marys have shown that excess phosphorus loading of the lake has been the primary reason for toxic algae blooms during the past two summers. Methane digestion is a biological process that converts organic matter in manure into a valuable biogas methane. Methane is a renewable energy that can be used for facility heating and converted to electricity or compressed natural gas (CNG), an alternative motor vehicle fuel. This process reduces nutrients flowing into the lake over time.

More good news:

Virginia will receive $1.8 million in federal grants for environmental projects, with the biggest sum going for manure to energy projects in four “phosphorous hot spots,” including the Shenandoah Valley.  Phosphorus runoff into the Chesapeake Bay causes algae blooms that create dead zones, where fish and other marine life cannot survive. Phosphorous is found in chicken waste, among other sources and is being regulated to reduce the amount getting into streams and the Chesapeake Bay

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will receive nearly $850,000 to implement the manure to energy projects.

The other grants, which come form the National Resources Conservation Service, include for $420,000 for the Eastern Shore Resource Conservation and Development Council to set up an on-farm demonstration of phosphorous recycling as an alternative to land applications of chicken waste.

Phosphorus (P) is a nutrient that stimulates plant growth. When it rains, storm water can carry phosphorus-containing soil into lakes and streams. This can result in excessive algae growth, decreased water quality, lower oxygen levels and fish kills.

On the downside, saying homeowners and businesses cannot afford new fees, Gov. Chris Christie (New Jersey) on Friday vetoed legislation that would allow Ocean County to establish a new storm-water utility to help restore Barnegat Bay. “Notwithstanding my administration’s strong and dedicated commitment to the Barnegat Bay environment, I cannot support new fees imposed in addition to what are already the nation’s highest property taxes,” Christie said in a four-page statement to legislators that was also a spirited defense of the administration’s strategy for the bay.  If they don’t control the pollution, this may become an area of the lowest paying property taxes, but we cannot expect a politician to understand this, can we?

From Charlottesville (Tx?), a popular Fluvanna County pond has been closed to swimmers after a potentially dangerous algae bloom was detected, that according to an alert on the Lake Monticello Homeowners’ Association website.

Officials say they’ve taken sample of the algae in the Tufton Lake Reservoir, a fishing pond located near Lake Monticello. The sample have been sent to a lab for testing. Until the results are back, authorities are reminding residents not the swim in the pond. Fishermen are also advised not to eat their catch until the results are back.

Due to having algae counts that exceed the Department of Public Health threshold for the past few weeks the East and West Monponsett Ponds (Halifax) will be closed to all recreation until further notice. According to Health Agent Cathy Drinan this week’s report has shown an increase in cell count.

Blue-green algae levels in Leslie Dam (Oz) should be of little concern to people thinking of eating fish from the dam, a Warwick and District Recreational Fish Stocking Association spokesman said.  Ed Kemp said fish regularly ate the algae which didn’t actually transfer into their flesh.  Well, Ed, I hope your public liability insurance is in place because your statement has been proved to be untrue.  Recent research has shown a very real risk of exposure to hepatotoxic cyanotoxins via fish flesh!   Results of work conducted here in Africa concluded that “We establish that fish consumption can be an important and sometimes dominant route of microcystin exposure for humans, and can cause consumers to exceed recommended total daily intake guidelines for microcystin“.

Also from Oz, the Health Department has warned people not to eat shellfish caught in the Peel-Harvey Estuary after the detection of toxic algae that could cause paralysis. Environmental Health acting director Richard Theobold said cooking would not destroy the algae.  A tip for you, Richard:  cooking will destroy the algae, its their toxins that may remain unaffected!

Clean Ocean Action has reported a huge algae bloom in the New York Bight, which extends from Montauk, N.Y., on the the tip of Long Island, to Cape May. The bloom has turned the normally blue ocean water green.  This is a mix of diatoms and other algae, not cyanobacteria, but it is still an impressive sight (although not a good one).

Massive algal bloom off the US east coast. Source:

CyanoAlert – Harmful Algal Blooms kill sporting opportunities

22 August 2011

Zeekoevlei when boating was still popular (but only just, see that water colour) Photo: Bill Harding

Three major sporting South African sporting venues have long been off the map due to poor water quality and either algal blooms or masses of floating plants.  Zeekoevlei, near Cape Town, used to host powerboat racing, now long gone and those who still practice their rowing there probably need their heads examined (but then canoeists, read Dusi and Berg marathons) don’t seem to mind risking their long-term health through short-term exposure to some of the most ghastly water quality imaginable. Read more »

Lots of P in waterfowl !

21 August 2011

Pretty but can be P-full (Photo: Bill Harding)

I receive a lot of queries from people with farm dams or ponds or ornamental lakes, bemoaning the fact that they have lots of algae but, to them, no tangible source of pollution (source of nutrients). Read more »

Floating Islands ideal for natural swimming pools

21 August 2011

Natural swimming pool with floating islands (Source: Steve Butler)

Natural swimming pools are becoming increasingly popular in many countries.  Being ‘natural’, they need a natural control mechanism to self-manage water quality – and the BioHaven floating islands are the best possible tool for this! Read more »

Floating Islands part of Spring Lake Management Plan

21 August 2011

Once a tiny jewel in the Minneapolis chain of parks, Spring Lake has all but disappeared from the public eye. Squeezed between Interstate 394 and a parkway, the little lake is surrounded by a wall of grapevine and buckthorn and, thanks to decades of urban pollution, coated with chartreuse algae. Read more »

CyanoAlert – five dogs dead at Milford Lake

21 August 2011

A seven month old puppy has died after swimming in a lake with blue green algae.  The Kansas Army Corp of Engineers says four other dogs are also suspected of dying from the algae. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment, in conjunction with the Kansas State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, can confirm that toxic blue-green algae is responsible for the death of one dog and suspected death of two others.  Since May, when blue-green algae was first detected during the 2011 season, there have been 17 reported cases of human illness after exposure to blue-green algae. KDHE cannot confirm these cases are a direct result of blue-green algae exposure because external factors like medical history could be an underlying cause. The two dogs suspected of blue-green algae poisoning are presently undergoing testing at the K-State Laboratory. In all three instances, the dogs had been in the water at Milford Lake, which is in Clay, Geary and Dickinson Counties. Read more »

Water Quality in South Africa – are you doing enough?

19 August 2011

Descent into Crisis presentation, Johannesburg, 16 August 2011

Following my recent “Water Quality: Descent into Crisis” presentation at the Alive2Green Sustainable Water Resource Conference this week in Johannesburg, I was asked if I could not act to initiate a change in thinking about this issue?  Here is my response to this: Read more »


19 August 2011

Dangerous levels of toxic blue-green algae detected in several Kansas waterways prompted state officials to issue public health warnings on Thursday.  The Kansas Department of Health and Environment, along with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, issued warnings for the following lakes on Thursday: Read more »

South African rivers threatened by development, but dams don’t get a mention (again)

18 August 2011

The South African Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs has attributed pollution of South African rivers to “poor monitoring controls”.  Its got nothing to do with monitoring, it is due to poor control, or no control, fact. Read more »