'Never say never' on toxic algae

Alex Doty • Jul 21, 2015 at 3:00 PM

“Never say never,” cautions Alan Steinman, Grand Valley State University’s Annis Water Resources Institute director. “But given how big Lake Michigan is, it’d be unlikely we’d see any algae blooms (like Toledo’s).”

Earlier this month, communities near Lake Erie banned drinking from the lake-supplied water system because of a massive algae bloom on the lake. About 30,000 residents of southeastern Michigan and hundreds of thousands in Ohio were advised not to drink, brush their teeth or wash dishes with the water for several days.

"The fact is, the algal blooms in western Lake Erie are the product of several key factors,” said Dan Wyant, director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. "We can't control the weather, but we are determined to do all we can with the pieces we can address."

Steinman said while Lake Erie has had algal blooms in the past, this one drew more attention because of its impact on the drinking water since it was closer to shore, near drinking water intakes.

“They had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said.

Steinman said given Lake Michigan’s size, average temperature and depth compared to Lake Erie, a similar situation here would be less likely to happen. Instead, Steinman said it’s more likely that problems would happen in inland lakes, rivers and streams, including but not limited to Spring Lake.

“The Grand River usually doesn’t set up quite as well because those blooms need stagnant water,” Steinman said, adding that there’s certainly enough nutrients in the river to cause problems if it wasn’t a fast mover.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Read the complete story in Saturday’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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