UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A new project to help identify and remediate harmful algal blooms could make Pennsylvania ponds and lakes safer for people and animals.
With a grant from the Penn State-based Pennsylvania Water Resources Research Center, Penn State Extension will develop a network of county-based extension educators trained in the identification of harmful algal blooms. These educators will collect data to help determine the abundance and geographic distribution of these blooms.
They also will conduct workshops and other outreach activities to educate and assist pond and lake owners. At some events, including Penn State's Ag Progress Days in August, Penn State Extension will offer to test algae samples brought in by attendees.
Awareness of harmful algal blooms was heightened in 2014 when a well-publicized occurrence in Lake Erie near Toledo, Ohio, prompted the city to restrict water use for its 500,000 water customers. While various agencies already monitor for harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes and other large bodies of water, little attention has been paid to such blooms in smaller inland waters.
Pennsylvania is home to thousands of these natural and man-made ponds and lakes, according to project leader Bryan Swistock, water resources senior extension associate in the College of Agricultural Sciences. But he noted that no known research is available on the prevalence of harmful algal blooms in Keystone State waters.
"Various species of toxin-producing algae were confirmed in a small number of samples submitted to Penn State Extension in 2014, but little is known about their overall abundance," Swistock said.
"Past surveys of pond and lake owners have revealed that more than three-fourths of these bodies of water had management problems, and more than half had nuisance levels of aquatic plants and/or algae," he said. "In addition, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission data on aquatic herbicide use suggest that algae is a major problem, since four of the top five herbicides used are algaecides."