Shared from the 7/6/2019 Sandusky Register eEdition


Algal bloom is back



George Bullerjahn, and two of his students, looking at water from Lake Erie.


The annual harmful algal bloom in Sandusky Bay is bigger than in years past and began earlier, says a Bowling Green State University scientist who’s been studying the bloom for years.

“We’ve seen greener water early,” said George Bullerjahn, director and principal investigator of the Great Lakes Center for Fresh Waters and Human Health at BGSU.

He’s also a distinguished research professor in the Life Sciences Building on BGSU’s main campus, although he’s also works with the BGSU Firelands campus in Huron.

He’s been monitoring algal blooms in Sandusky Bay for years, assisted by graduate students from the main campus and BGSU Firelands undergrads.

“Most likely a result of the heavy spring rainfall, the blooms we saw in the Sandusky Bay in May resemble blooms we would typically see in July. As the warmer summer months approach, we expect the blooms to worsen,” Bullerjahn said.

Sandusky’s algal bloom both resembles and differs from the bigger harmful algal bloom that covers much of western Lake Erie every summer and which is expected to be bigger this summer than last year’s bloom.

The larger, more infamous bloom is produced by the cyanobacterium Microcystis. The local Sandusky Bay algal bloom, however, is produced by the Planktothrix cyanobacterium.

Cyanobacteria are bacteria, similar to algae, that use photosynthesis like plants. Other examples of Planktothrix blooms are in Ohio’s Grant Lake St. Marys and Lake Okeechobee in Florida.

Bullerjahn said the Planktothrix bloom tends to start earlier than the Microcystis bloom and also tends to hang around later in the fall.

“You can expect to see the water looking kind of greenish well into October,” he said.

Bullerjahn said he monitors local water conditions with water quality sensors at the intake for City of Sandusky’s Big Island Water Works, a sensor on a buoy in Sandusky Bay and a “very complicated” series of instruments at Edison bridge that measure water quality, nutrients that feed cyanobacteria and water movement.

The professor and his student aides will study the bay for years.

“We have grant funds for the next five years, working on the problem,” he said.

Microcystin and Planktothrix can both produce toxins that complicate the efforts of local water filter plants to deliver safe water to cities that line the Lake Erie shore. Bullerjahn said the Sandusky River has pushed the bay’s algal bloom out into the lake, near the City of Sandusky’s water intake.

The City of Sandusky has been coping fine with the latest bloom in the bay, and has gotten used to dealing with it, said Orin McMonigle, superintendent of water services for the city.

“So far, it actually hasn’t been that bad,” McMonigle said.

If a problem develops, the city is ready with the necessary chemicals and treatment methods.

“As soon as we see any algae, we change our treatment,” McMonigle said.

Scientists pointing to heavy spring rains have been predicting a large Microcystin bloom in western Lake Erie this year.

The official forecast for the 2019 harmful algal bloom will be released Thursday in annual event at Stone Laboratory on Gibraltar Island near Put-in-Bay. The event will feature local and national harmful algal bloom experts who work with a variety of different models to offer their forecasts.

Meanwhile, Bullerjahn said people who want to study Sandusky Bay’s harmful algal bloom can look at the results from BGSU’s monitoring equipment; the measurements are posted publicly on the internet.

Measurements from the city’s water intake are at Readings from the buoy in the outer bay, between the coal pier and Edison Bridge, are at The Edison Bridge site is at sbedison. Going to provides a portal for buoy measurements across the Great Lakes.

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