A better way: An application for risk characterization of HABs on the Ohio River

Read the full story from U.S. EPA.

When you think of water, you might imagine deep blue ocean waves crashing against a shoreline or perhaps the still calm of a forested lake, but on an August morning in the summer of 2015, the lockmaster at the Pike Island Lock and Dam saw something much different. That day, EPA’s regional office in Wheeling, WV, received a concerned phone call from the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) notifying them of what was described as “antifreeze-green colored paint” flowing down the Ohio River. But this was no paint spill. Rather, Microcystis, a naturally occurring species of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, known to produce toxins harmful to animals and humans, was quickly taking over one of the most influential rivers in the continental U.S.

By mid-September of that same year, the Ohio River harmful algae bloom (HAB) was affecting over 700 miles of the 981-mile-long river. Advisories for recreational boaters remained in place until November. After the bloom ended, EPA began pulling together a team of professionals to address this safety concern in anticipation of future HABs events. By early 2017, the project team was forming a specific plan to address the need for a cyanobacterial harmful algal bloom (cyanoHAB) risk management tool for the Ohio River. An interdisciplinary team of EPA scientists began working together with ORSANCO to address this need.

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