The Weekend Wonk: Toxic Algae, Water, and Climate Change
August 28, 2014
Dr. Alan Steinman is an expert on the Aquatic biology of North America’s Great Lakes.
He has been studying the combined effects of invasive species, warming waters, increasing pollution, and expanding population on the Great Lakes system.
I called Dr. Steinman to discuss the recent cutoff of water supplies to 400,000 residents of Toledo, Ohio, after a noxious bloom of toxin-producing algae covered much of the western end of Lake Erie.
Dr. Steinman was a member of a team which discovered Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii, an invasive, toxin forming micro-organism, formerly associated with more southerly climates, surviving in a tributary of Lake Michigan. In a 2006 paper, Steinman observed:
C. raciborskii is able to produce multiple toxins, and was implicated in one of Australia’s worst cases of human poisoning (Falconer 2001). At least three distinct toxins can be produced by Cylindrospermopsis (Chorus and Bartram 2004): cylindrospermopsin, which targets primarily the liver and kidneys, and anatoxin-a and saxitoxin, which are both neurotoxins.
Because of its potential to produce these toxins and its highly adaptable growth, this genus ranks near the top of the watch list of toxic cyanobacteria for water managers (WHO 1999).