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Recent runoff, incoming summer weather increases threat of blue-green algae

Because of high runoff and the incoming summer weather, local scientists worry about an increase in blue-green algae in lakes and streams.
Published: May. 21, 2022 at 10:33 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN. (KBJR) - The summer months are just around the corner and with all the runoff water from this recent rain, there’s a potential threat to those considering a swim in Lake Superior.

Scientists are worried about the development of a toxic algae in streams and lakes.

Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, is a bacterial toxin. It can develop on the surface of water primarily during the summer months when the water is warmer and still.

And with more runoff water, the more often those toxic blooms are forming.

“It’s not just water entering the system. It’s also all the nutrients that are picked up when the water moves over the landscape and remember cyanobacteria bloom really like those high nutrients...” said Chris Filstrup, a Limnologist at UMD.

Filstrup also added there’s usually an uptick in dog deaths throughout the summer months due to the blue-green algae.

And with Lake Superior warming faster than the other Great lakes due to climate change, its raising concerns for future algae outbreaks.

Recently, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) granted state money to the Duluth-based Natural Resource Research Institute (NRRI) to better understand how to combat future blue-green algae outbreaks.

“We’re looking at the relationship between our streams and beaches that are impaired for high levels of bacteria and what that may mean for our possibility of having cyanobacteria outbreaks in these streams and beaches as well,” said Tiffany Sprague, a Stormwater Research Coordinator at NRRI.

As you and your furry friends head out to the water, remember one thing, when in doubt, stay out!

Symptoms of toxic blue green algae exposure can include diarrhea, nausea or vomiting along with skin, eye or throat irritation, but it can also be fatal.

Experts say if you see blue-green algae, you should report it to the local DNR office and stay out of the water.

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