Algae Blooms, Water Quality Withers

By W. Spencer King

Algae may not be the first pollutant that comes to mind, but in Kentucky, blue-green algae in the Ohio River has become a concern for water quality and human safety. The particular algae is a cyanobacteria containing a toxin that is harmful to humans who come in direct contact with it.

In April 2013, officials from the Kentucky Division of Water pledged to draft a plan to mitigate these toxic algal blooms that were affecting the waterways, but as of press time, no plan has been released.

Kentucky officials have made headway on controlling nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, which could help control the algae, Peter Goodman, director of the Division of Water, told the Courier Journal. According to Goodman, creating a plan to control the pollutants that feed the algae is a very complex task, as the pollutants are often found in runoff from farms, wastewater treatment plants, and commercial fertilizers.

Environmental organization Kentucky Waterways Alliance believes that the state should prioritize plans to deal with the problem and educate the public on how waterway pollution is causing the buildup of algae.

Although algal blooms are not currently threatening municipal water supplies, state officials have previously warned that direct contact with river water when algal blooms are occurring could result in skin, eye and respiratory irritation as well as sickness.

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