Algae tests result in higher [water] bills

26 June 2014

The quality of drinking water supplies is becoming increasingly threatened by pollution (Photo: Bill Harding)

The quality of drinking water supplies is becoming increasingly threatened by pollution (Photo: Bill Harding)

PORT CLINTON — Ottawa County water customers are paying 4.5 percent more for their water this year, partly because of the cost of removing toxins caused by harmful algae. Blue-green algae that grows on Lake Erie in late summer and early fall can produce a toxin, called microcystin, that can cause gastrointestinal illness and skin irritations.  Normal water treatment processes don’t always remove the toxin from the finished drinking water, causing plants like Ottawa County’s to use additional chemicals, methods and testing to make sure the water coming from the tap is safe.

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USA House of Representatives approves Harmful Algal Blooms Act

12 June 2014

Algal blooms impact on marine and freshwater resources worldwide (Photo: Bill Harding)

Algal blooms impact on marine and freshwater resources worldwide (Photo: Bill Harding)

Good news for research and management of noxious algae in the United States!  This week the US House of Representatives passed Bill S. 1254, which “reauthorizes the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Act.  Harmful algal blooms (HABs) occur when colonies of algae grow out of control while producing toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and birds. The bill maintains and enhances an interagency program led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which will be responsible for promoting a national strategy to help communities understand, predict, control and mitigate freshwater and marine HAB and hypoxia events; enhancing, coordinating, and assessing the activities of existing HABs and hypoxia programs; providing for development of a comprehensive research plan and action strategy, including a regional approach to understanding and responding to HAB events; and requiring an assessment and plan for Great Lakes HABs and hypoxia”. Read more »

Be prepared for seasonal blue-green algal blooms

24 December 2013

Blue-green algal blooms are seasonally-common right now!  (Photo: Bill Harding)

Blue-green algal blooms are seasonally-common right now! (Photo: Bill Harding)

It’s that time of year in South Africa again – temperatures have warmed up and so have nutrient-enriched dams and ponds.  Many have developed algal blooms that could be toxic, so beware!

Droplets contains lots of useful information about blue-green algae and their toxins.  In the USA, the Centre for Disease Control has produced a very useful facts sheet that provides all the essential background.  South Africa does not have any resources focussed on algal blooms (!) or where to get help should one develop problems after being in contact with toxic algae.  DH Environmental Consulting can be approached for guidance and we have ability for rapid on-site toxin testing and algal identification.  Algal blooms pose a threat  to humans, pets and livestock.  They should not be underestimated.

We will shortly be releasing an App that will enable users to send us details of algal blooms they come across so that we can build a geographic database of bloom occurrence.  In the meantime you are welcome to email us information and photographs of what you saw, to

Merry Xmas!

Breakthrough Discovery Links Blue-Green Algae With Motor Neuron Disease

17 October 2013

(This press release was made by University of Technology, Sydney and is repeated here verbatim as part of Droplet’s information program on the possible links between BMAA and motor neuron disease – search Droplets for ‘BMAA’ for more information).

In summary:

  • For the first time UTS and US research has found a link between toxins produced by blue-green algae and motor neurone disease
  • Over 90 per cent of motor neuron diseases have had no known cause or cure

A recently identified link between a toxic amino acid found in blue-green algae and several motor neuron diseases could help researchers devise a therapy for the fatal conditions. Read more »

Blue-green algal blooms close Lake Erie beaches

17 July 2013

All beaches in the Chatham-Kent area of Lake Erie (Canada) have been closed as a result of dense cyanobacterial blooms. There is a stunning photo of a bloom off this shoreline at this link.

The Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit is advising the public to avoid exposure to the blue green algae.

  • Do not swim or wade in any water when a noticeable green surface scum or green discolouration of the water is present

  • Do not use the water for drinking, bathing or showering

  • Do not allow children, pets or livestock to drink or swim in the water.

  • Do not boil the water or treat it with a disinfectant, as this will release more toxins into the water

  • Eating fish caught in water where cyanobacterial blooms occur is not recommended. Read more »

A Little P can cause Big Problems

1 March 2013

Herewith a few CyanoAlerts to start off March!

A newcomer to Droplets CyanoAlert is Ella Lake – which is in Northern Ontario, rural Canada, one of dozens of lakes just south of the Trans Canada Highway.  Ella has a reported blue-green algal bloom – despite having very low levels of phosphorus (see graphic below) – illustrating the important fact that a little nutrient enrichment can cause a big problem.  Such low levels of Phosphorus is the stuff of dreams for us here in South Africa! Read more »

Research shows the way to fix Iowa’s eutrophication problem

7 January 2013

The US state of Iowa featured a lot in these posts during 2012.  Many Iowan lakes are enriched with nutrients, a lot of which comes from agriculture – not just suspected of coming from agriculture, actually shown to be.  So, how to deal with a big portion of the problem is clear – throw effort at the polluted agric runoff and get it down to acceptable levels.  OK, it may not be that simple as a press report today suggests:

First, unlike the approach used for cities, the strategy continues to rely on all-voluntary farm conservation programs, which have fallen short of protecting our waters in the past. Even though research clearly shows significantly increasing farmer participation in conservation programs is critical for success of the plan, the document does not set timetables or goals to ensure that this will happen. Read more »

Algal blooms hotting up down south

18 December 2012

And you thought that Spielberg character made up aliens that look like me? (Empusa guttula, female. Photo: Bill Harding)

Things are hotting up down here in the Southern Hemisphere and through the heat haze from my veranda I am kept awake by the regular fall of over-ripe plums from a tree that has become a veritable wildlife sanctuary for all sorts of birds, bees, beetles and the handsome guy in the picture above, well he was just passing through!

The increasing seasonal heat is closely associated with the increased number of algal bloom reports. Read more »

DHEC surveys links between toxic algae and motor neuron disease

29 May 2011

In a first for South Africa, Dr Bill Harding from DH Environmental Consulting (DHEC) will conduct a research survey to test for links between cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) and neurodegenerative diseases (Motor Neuron Disease, MND; Parkinsons Dementia Complex, PDC;  and Alzheimers). Read more »

Not all toxic algae float…

23 May 2011


Typical blue-green algal scum in a farm dam (Photo: Bill Harding)

The commonest form of blue-green algal blooms in lakes and ponds are of the floating, scum-forming variety.  These are easy to spot as the water is very green, often paint-like, scums form at the edges, either in the water or on the rocks. Read more »