Algal Blooms

Recent Toxic Algal Blooms Gone From Ohio River

Nov 11, 2019

The Ohio River is free from harmful levels of toxic algae after more than a month of recreational public health advisories, according to the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.

The cabinet lifted recreation public health advisories along the Ohio River on Thursday after recent water samples showed a decline in toxic algae.

The algae first formed in late September when drought conditions paired with hot temperatures produced blooms along a 300-mile stretch of the Ohio River. The blooms resulted in the cancellation of the Great Ohio River Swim in Cincinnati and the swimming portion of Louisville’s Iron Man Competition.

Hundreds of miles of the Ohio River are still contaminated with unsafe levels of toxic blue-green algae, though seasonal changes have helped to improve conditions over the last week or so.

Drought conditions across the Ohio Valley in September helped fuel the growth of harmful algal blooms. The algae led organizers to cancel the Great Ohio River Swim in Cincinnati and the swimming portion of Louisville’s Iron Man competition earlier this month.

Bill Rinehart / WVXU

Updated: Monday, 1:12 p.m.

On Friday, a green-ish scum began forming in places along the banks of the Ohio River. At the time, the executive director of the Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) wasn't concerned, but that changed this weekend. 

High levels of blue-green algae are currently triggering recreational alerts at 10 lakes in Indiana this summer, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

The algae has rarely been toxic to humans in Indiana, but even small amounts of the toxins can be dangerous for pets, said Cyndi Wagner with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

“Even in those small amounts, if a dog drinks enough of the water they could succumb to the effects of the toxin and the toxins — there are four different ones — some of them are neurotoxins and some of them are liver toxins,” Wagner said.

Ann Thompson / WVXU

Though the recent rain has helped the Ohio River avert a possible harmful algal bloom, a handful of Greater Cincinnati agencies continue to monitor the river for the presence of the toxic scum-like organism that can potentially kill fish and other wildlife.

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This spring a camera will begin taking pictures of the Ohio River at California, Kentucky to identify rare but toxic algal blooms as much as a day before they become a danger to drinking water.

A partnership between Thomas More College, Northern Kentucky University, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) is developing a network of cameras that will take pictures of the Ohio River and analyze the information in a computer algorithm.

Ann Thompson / WVXU

Key discoveries made by Cincinnati EPA scientists are helping solve lead contaminated water issues across the country and better predict when harmful algal blooms might threaten drinking water.

Bill Rinehart / WVXU

The toxic green glob of slime known as an algal bloom which spanned over 600 miles on the Ohio River in September, 2015 is gone now but water experts remain vigilant in efforts to control and treat it when it comes back.

Tuesday marks the second Algal Toxin Summit in as many years in Cincinnati, bringing together leading experts in water technology, utility water treatment, water quality and monitoring.