When I was up at Put-In-Bay several weeks ago, I walked to a park and found a nice group of colorful kayaks set against a rocky beach, with one of the island outcroppings and a pretty blue sky behind. It made for a nice picture.
But . . . what’s that sign say, just above the “Have fun on the water” green triangle?
It’s a sign advising people not to drink Lake Erie water and cautioning about the potential presence of blue-green algae toxins. The sign helpfully advises people to avoid water that looks like spilled paint, or is covered with scum or film, or has “green globs” floating just below the surface. That’s useful information when you’re going out in one of those brightly colored kayaks, I guess, although it sure would put a damper on my ability to “have fun on the water.”
Ohio actually has a website that provides more information about “harmful algae blooms” and their potentially toxic effects on human skin, livers, and nervous systems. The blooms are caused by excess nutrients, consisting primarily of phosphorus and nitrogen, that run off into the lake from fertilized farm fields and feed the algae. The nutrient run-off and the algae blooms is a problem not only for Lake Erie, but also for a bunch of other lakes and ponds in Ohio — including the pond on the Yantis Loop here in New Albany.
Lake Erie is vastly improved from what it was in the ’60s, when I remember taking a boat ride in the lake with grade school classmates and being amazed at how filthy it looked and how terrible it smelled. Careful regulation of pollutants, efforts to keep invasive species out, and other initiatives have had a significant positive impact. As the sad sign on the Put-In-Bay shore indicates, however, there is still more work to do.