Blue-green algal scums: correct visual identification is essential

10 June 2012

Paint-like patterns formed by blue-green algae floating past the legs of a jetty  (Photo: Bill Harding)

One aspect that mostly goes missing from press reports on blue-green algae is the inclusion of decent pictures, or any pictures for that matter, showing what the algal scums look like.  Those reports that do, for example one today from Minnesota, mostly shows a harmless, filamentous alga known as blanket weed, a seasonal or new pond pioneer genus, belonging to the genus Cladophora.  Although the associated video mentions that this alga is not a problem, it is so prominent in the report that, as is quite common, it is perceived as a blue-green.

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Algal spring 2012

9 June 2012

While I have not analyzed the reporting in any detail, there certainly appears to be a marked increase in early algal bloom reports for the 2012 northern hemisphere spring. From Chautauqua County in New York comes the warning that “The mild winter and higher than normal temperatures has made summer bloom early throughout the region, unfortunately this includes an early bloom of nuisance aquatic weeds and algae in our lakes“. Read more »

We flush and brush – and the wastewater pros clean it up

8 June 2012

Here’s an example of how to manage wastewater and those tasked with its management:

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) once again has recognized outstanding performance by wastewater treatment professionals across the state.

In 2011, a record-setting 108 of the state’s wastewater (sewer) treatment plants achieved perfect compliance with state requirements. That means more than one third of the state’s sewer plants achieved 100 percent compliance with state environmental regulations in 2011. Read more »

Finlands posts algal bloom prediction for 2012

8 June 2012

Each year the Finnish Environment Agency (SYKE) advises on the likelihood or presence of blue-green algal blooms in their lakes, as well as in the Baltic Sea.  The Baltic is very fresh in some areas and behaves like a big lake.  The map above shows their latest map.  SYKE are also moving towards a prediction system, using a model to provide a prognosis of the likely level of algal blooms occurring in a particular lake. Read more »

USEPA invokes third round of monitoring for as-yet unregulated contaminants of concern

5 June 2012

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published a list of 28 chemicals and two viruses that approximately 6,000 public water systems will monitor from 2013 to 2015 as part of the agency’s unregulated contaminant monitoring program, conforming to the requirements of the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR).

UCMR 3 requires public water systems (PWSs) to monitor for 30 contaminants (28 chemicals and two viruses).  This approach will, within a relatively short period of time, yield a massive set of data on the targeted contaminants. Read more »

JoCo Lake no joke

5 June 2012

Johnson County Lake in Kansas was the cause of several dog deaths and about a dozen ill people last year.  2012 seems to be more of the same with an algal advisory already issued due to the presence of blue-green algae in the lake!

Residents of Kansas, who now have one less lake to go to on weekends, should be thankful that their state officials are taking their jobs seriously!  Toxic algae get a lot less attention here in South Africa.  I recently reviewed some data, collected during the high (recreational) season, from a major recreational dam, which revealed horrifyingly-high levels of algal toxins.  No warnings were published, no advisories issued!  All willfully ignored in a dam, which were it in the USA, would be off-limits almost year-round. Read more »

Floating Wetlands Help Boost Nitrogen Removal in Lagoons

5 June 2012

Floating islands provide a long-lasting, cost-effective range of water treatment options

This article was prepared by Dr Mark Reinsel.

High nutrient loading and eutrophication of surface waters continue to be topics of great concern in the wastewater treatment community.  Floating treatment wetlands (FTWs) have been shown effective in substantially reducing nutrient levels in several studies involving smaller-scale lagoon treatment plants.

The key feature of these floating islands, developed by Floating Island International (FII) and marketed in South Africa by DH Environmental Consulting, is their high surface-area-to-footprint ratio, which enables them to perform a wetland’s function in a fraction of the space. Applications include polishing of municipal wastewater, direct treatment of raw wastewater, ponds and lakes impacted by septic systems and/or waterfowl, and waterways degraded by agricultural runoff. Read more »

Toxic algae everywhere

3 June 2012

A while back I argued that discounting the possibility of health risks in waters tainted by algal growth could be a dangerous route for officials to follow.  The basis of this reasoning was that, while the taste and odour compounds produced by cyanobacteria are not known to be harmful, the same algae produce a whole lot of other compounds which are very dangerous to humans and animals.  So, to simply say there are no problems, without first ensuring that potentially-toxic compounds are not present, is foolish. Read more »

America’s worst rivers: an example for us all?

3 June 2012

A few days ago I commented on the need for the South African Department of Water Affairs (DWA) to ‘do more with their data’, in specific to show South African’s where the pollution problems lie – in a clear and unambiguous fashion.  My comments received a very favorable and positive response from Mike Silberbauer, one of the remaining stalwarts of data management and processing at the DWA.

My information searches this week yielded a report on the Grand River in Ohio, USA – a waterway threatened by shale fracking.  The Grand River is 6th on this years list of Most Endangered [Major] Rivers in the US (see more on this below). Read more »