Yummy Green Water
See that image? That’s an algal bloom in Lake Erie, Michigan. Algal blooms may look pretty, but are actually a form of pollution. And despite their beauty, they can actually be quite deadly, and might even spread to YOUR local lakes. But, with your help, these potential spreads can be prevented.
These blooms happen when there is excess nutrients in the lake or body of water; high temperatures ,which is a consequence of global warming; intense light shining into the water; still, calm water, with little turbulence and outside flow; and a high amount of suspended micro-particles in the water. It may not seem like a bad thing, but algae blooms can be quite dangerous. They can contain poisons, that could kill any unsuspecting creature that gets the contaminated water in its mouth.
One algal problem we have today is the mysterious case of Anderson Lake. If you didn’t know, Anderson Lake is an extremely poisonous lake, located in Washington. Why is it so poisonous? Well its gets its toxic reputation from the high potency of Anatoxin-A in it. Anatoxin-A, also known as the Very Fast Death Factor, is a microbacteria that is produced by up to seven different kinds of cyanobacteria, an algae-like bacteria that obtains its energy through photosynthesis. Anatoxin-A, when consumed, causes respiratory arrest, which prevents oxygen from getting into the brain. And with animals such as birds, rats, mice, calves and dogs, it will cause several muscle spasms within the animal, before the poor creature collapses, continuing to experience exaggerated abdominal breathing for a few seconds before it finally dying. The worst part about this toxin is that it can kill in small doses. You are able to endure one microgram per liter of Anatoxin-A, but anything above that will give you respiratory problems or even death.
The abundance of this toxin in the lake cause it to be closed down in various seasons, giving visitors a limited time of which they can go to it. But just imagine, what if this toxic algae spread out of this beautifully deadly lake? What if YOUR neighboring ponds and lakes became toxic? Well, this might just become a reality. According to The Center for Earth and Environmental Science, light and heat are a key factor to algal blooms, “ The development and proliferation of algal blooms likely result from a combination of environmental factors including available nutrients, temperature, sunlight, ecosystem disturbance (stable/mixing conditions, turbidity), hydrology (river flow and water storage levels) and the water chemistry (pH, conductivity, salinity, carbon availability…). “. And with global warming comes more heat, and more light. Which brings us to the topic of global warming. Global warming is caused by the excessive amount of CO2 that is put into the atmosphere by humans, which is very much a real thing. CO2 emission is caused by many common human activities. Driving a car, coal burning, cement plants, energy production, petroleum/natural gas usage. If this increase in heat and light continues, algae may become more abundant in your local freshwater swimming areas. Wikipedia states that, “ Cyanobacteria reproduce explosively under certain conditions. This results in algae blooms, which can become harmful to other species, and pose a danger to humans and animals, if the cyanobacteria involved produce toxins. Several cases of human poisoning have been documented, but a lack of knowledge prevents an accurate assessment of the risks. “ Now, if you remember, cyanobacteria is what causes Anatoxin-A. And those ‘certain conditions ‘ were heat and light, meaning that the worse global warming becomes, the more probable there will be an algae bloom in a lake and/or pond.
Now, occasional algal blooms might not be such a problem if you don’t like to swim. But what about hiking? Even hiking around these lakes can potentially harm you. Remember, even small doses of anatoxin-A can kill an animal or human. So if you are walking around a lake with, let’s say, 20 micrograms per liter in it and the cyanobacteria in the lake isn’t very visible and your dog drinks it, your pets not gonna have a good time. But if you don’t like swimming or hiking, or you have a cat and not a dog so you can’t walk anything, you must surely be concerned about your drinking water. Lately, scientists are especially concerned about the threat Cyanobacteria and its toxins poses on people's drinking water. Information from Wikipedia states, “ Cyanobacteria are a growing concern for drinking water utilities who use lakes and rivers as their source water. The bacteria can interfere with treatment in various ways, primarily by plugging filters (often large beds of sand and similar media), and by producing cyanotoxins, which have the potential of causing serious illness if consumed. “ You must keep in mind that all of this ties into global warming. So, if enough people rise up against global warming, we can reduce the amount of carbon in the air, therefore reducing your chances of having a nearby poisoned lake. So, how exactly can you help with this problem?
You must keep in mind that all of this has to do with global warming. So, some things you could do involve following the 7 R’s, which are reuse, repurpose, rot, repair, return, refill and refuse. If you were to follow the path of reusing, you would use items over again before throwing them away. You could have your children pass down their clothes instead of constantly buying new or reuse food containers as receptacles for holding small, easily losable, items. Another way you could do this is by using a cloth or personal grocery bag, as to not create more trash.
A different way could help is to contribute is by repurposing items. Repurposing is basically the same as reusing, but it involves a little more of your DIY skills. You could refill your used plastic bottles with tap water or fill them with rice and small random objects and use it as a finding game. Or you could use a broken rake’s head as a coat hanger, or maybe turn a scrapped piece of wood into a spray painted masterpiece. The possibilities are endless, you just have to use your creativity and you can help.
The next R is rot, which isn’t that hard to accomplish if you put in the extra little effort. Rot is exactly what it seems like, you would only have to use your leftover food scraps, lawn clippings, fallen branches and leaf decay as compost/fertilizer instead of just sending it away to be dumped into a landfill. Although it is probably the easiest on this list to accomplish, it actually helps quite a bit, considering landfills give off methane which contributes to global warming. So, not bringing possible compost could help reduce the size of landfills, which would help everyone massively.
Another R you can do is repair, which involves you attempting to fix something instead of automatically throwing it away or buying new replacements. This could involve sewing a tear in clothes or a child’s stuffed animal, or fixing your bike instead of just buying a new a replacement. So, the next time you find a damaged item in your home, consider if you can fix it or if someone you know can repair the disarrayed item. This may seem like one of the harder ones, but it can actually be quite simple.
The next possible R is refill. This is basically the same as reuse but has more to do with refilling water bottles and other various containers. This could be using personal water bottles instead of buying plastic ones or using now useless containers to store other items. Most people do this one without even realizing, making it probably the most common and easiest to do.
The next R that is available is return. Participating in the return section of recycling involves you returning unwanted clothes, toys, electronics, books, etc. to a local thrift shop instead of just throwing them away. Doing this would help because you wouldn’t be contributing to landfills and you would be giving things that you don’t want to someone who might want it.
Finally the seventh R, refuse. When doing the refusal R, you respectfully decline using small not longingly used bits of plastic. These things include, straws, store sample containers, plastic cutlery, disposable drinking cups, paper napkins, etc. Instead, use other, more durable and lasting counterparts, as to not create more trash to be thrown into landfills.
These actions may not seem like they’re helping with algal preventions, they actually are. By performing these recycling actions, you reduce landfills, which reduces methane emission, which aids in the riddance of global warming, finally reducing chances of an algae bloom.
Thank you for your time. I hope you enjoyed this article and most importantly, learned from it. Please take the problems discussed seriously, and maybe consider participating in an R.
Image Credit : https://www.flickr.com/photos/noaa_glerl/4075269443
Sources/Bibliography : https://www.cees.iupui.edu/research/algal-toxicology/bloomfactors ( Center for Earth and Environmental Science )
This page was last modified on 26 March 2017, at 22:05.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyanobacteria ( Wikipedia )
http://www.daltondailycitizen.com/news/lifestyles/practicing-the-r-s-lifestyle/article_9afb2524-e91e-11e4-a208-bb1680190d92.html( More info for the 7 R’s of recycling )