Austin, Texas — Officially summer has arrived, which means toxic algae as well.
The recent surge in harmful blue-green algae has been associated with the deaths of some dogs, so the city of Austin has announced that it is looking at new ways to strengthen its response and eliminate it.
The recent surge in toxic algae in Austin makes headlines, but this is not an isolated incident.
The EPA reports an increase in harmful algal blooms (HABs) nationwide, and scientists are looking for long-term solutions to this increasing problem.
However, some environmental activists believe that the government is not doing enough.
Bill Moriarty is passionate about clean water. It has become his life work. He is a former water facility engineer and is now a member of the Austin City Waste and Sewage Commission.
“The problem seems to be getting worse, not better,” Moriarty said.
His home in West Austin is a popular dog park, just a short drive from Red Bud Isle, the ground zero for toxic algae dog deaths first recorded in Austin in 2019.
The sign is posted where the test found toxic algae (such as Red Bad Isle). They warn dog owners to avoid contact with algae. Moriarty said he was concerned about the risks to humans, especially children.
“I think it’s harmful to everyone, but losing weight can cause more serious problems,” he said.
The EPA explains that toxic algal blooms are harmful to the environment, animals and humans. Ingestion of these toxins can damage the liver and kidneys, and recreational exposure can cause gastrointestinal problems, rashes, and fever-like symptoms. Even if you can’t see the flowers, you can still be exposed to toxic algae.
There are no reports of humans or children becoming ill due to exposure to toxic algae.
“Do you know if anyone has been harmed when it’s only been a few years?” Moriarty asked. “How enthusiastic are people about reporting these things to the city?”
Not all algae are toxic. Also, it is not always possible to determine whether algae are toxic just by observing them.
Even if they are toxic, they are not always toxic. It depends on nutritional level, temperature and water flow.
There are many types of toxic algae, but blue-green algae are the most common.
It is considered highly toxic as a neurotoxin was found in the Austin area and several dogs died in 2019 and February of this year. However, there are few studies on the effects on human health.
Scientists are further studying the chronic toxicity and cancer of humans and animals exposed to HAB. The study of toxic algae is the full-time job of environmental scientist Dr. Brent Bellinger. He works for the Austin Watershed Conservation Department.
When Spectrum News 1 caught up with him, he was collecting water samples at Lake Ladybird, monitoring water conditions, and deploying data loggers.
“Once algae are present and they become toxic, all this data can be modeled to determine a set of conditions that promote the growth of the algae,” said Dr. Bellinger.
This information will help the city determine long-term solutions to combat nutrient pollution.
According to EPA data, fossil fuels, sewage, wastewater, fertilizers and industrial factories are increasing the growth of toxic algae. The United States has approximately 15,000 bodies of water and has nutrient-related problems.
Reports of nitrate drinking water violations have nearly doubled in the last decade. In this assessment, the EPA determined that “nutrition pollution is one of America’s most serious water pollution problems today.”
Despite all of this, the CDC reports that there are no federal guidelines, water quality standards, or regulations regarding toxic algae in drinking water or recreational applications. Also, there are few studies on the short-term and long-term effects of these toxins on humans.
Dr. Bellinger said that Austin’s blue-green algae, despite becoming more common, have not been well-studied, so his research is essential in identifying the main causes of this crisis. I did.
“This is actually a way to get long-term changes and improvements in the healthcare system,” he said.
The city plans to increase tests, update signs, and implement short-term modifications to prevent the growth of toxic algae. According to Dr. Bellinger, the test results take about a week to 14 days.
Moriarty said it would take too long to wait for life when it was at stake. He said the city needs to do more frequent inspections and get faster results. The EPA recommends that city authorities dealing with recreational exposure to HAB invest in rapid testing that can measure water quality within hours.
“What’s the worst scenario? Some kids call and take a sip and get sick?” Moriarty said.
A Austin Water spokeswoman said he tested the water treatment plant every two weeks and used several processes to remove toxins from HAB.
We asked the Texas EPA about the number of waters in the state that are home to toxic algae. Representatives said it was unclear whether to track the data.
Scientists Address Texas Toxic Algae Concerns
Source link Scientists Address Texas Toxic Algae Concerns