Waterwise Wednesday: Beware of the Toxic Algae

Blue-green algae can house cyanobacteria that causes illness ranging from mild rash to death in both humans and animals. Blue-green algae forms a scum like pea soup or paint on the surface of the water during the summer and fall. While most blue-algae is harmless, the cyanobacteria is not.

Nebraska monitors 52 public beaches May 1 to September 30 each year, including Lake Minatare, and posts current warnings on the webpage below. Cyanobacteria cannot be seen with the naked eye, so it’s recommended to avoid contact with blue-green algae blooms and to prevent pets from drinking or swimming near them.

For more information on toxic blue-green algae please see:

NDEQ Toxic Algae Factsheet: http://deq.ne.gov/NDEQProg.nsf/OnWeb/ENV042607

EPA: https://www.epa.gov/nutrient-…/health-and-ecological-effects

DEQ.NE.GOV

Waterwise Wednesday: Feeding the Blue-Green Algae Monster

 

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“..in the St. Lucie estuary, about half the sea grass, which is a food source for many marine animals, died off during last year’s algae blooms. Among humans who’ve been exposed to the algae, there has been an increase in antibiotic-resistant staph infections. Florida’s governor has declared a state of emergency in four counties,” according to Janice Kaspersen, editor of Stormwater: The Journal for Surface Water Quality Professionals.

Fertilizer in water runoff is boosting the growth of blue-green algae and hurting more than Florida’s $109 billion a year tourist industry. Cyanobacteria flourish with phosphorus and nitrogen, primary ingredients in fertilizers. The fertilizer boosts growth that create large algae blooms during summer and fall that deplete oxygen and diminish sunlight in the water. The bacteria not only affect aquatic life but also cause beach closures for health safety.

Fertilizer is one of the largest pollutants of stormwater runoff in urban areas. Please use fertilizers “sparingly and caringly” – apply according to the directions, when wind is still, and rain is not in the immediate forecast. You’ll be protecting more than just your plants.

Photograph: Toxic blue-green algae bloom in Klamath River in California taken by David McLain for National Geographic.

Waterwise Wednesday: Spring has Sprung and Lawn Work has Begun!

Amidst the activity, we ask your help in protecting our water quality and MS4 with appropriate fertilizer application. Fertilizer in water causes large algae blooms, hypoxic (dead) zones in water as it decays, and can be toxic to water supply systems. These consequences are easy to prevent with proper application.

Fertilizing Tips:
1. Apply during calm dry weather to prevent spread into unwanted areas.
2. Apply as directed – excessive lawn feeding contributes to ground water contamination.
3. Sweep fertilizer back on the grass if it falls on the sidewalk or other impervious surface to keep it out of the storm sewer.
4. Consider grass clippings or compost as natural alternatives.

Waterwise Wednesday: What’s Hidden in the Melting Snow

Photo by L. Sato
Avenue B Outfall                  Photo Credit:  L. Sato

As warmer weather melts the snow piles around town, the runoff makes its way to the city’s outfalls where the contaminants can be seen. The swirled sheen on the water’s surface is oil that was trapped in the snow. Snow traps oils, salts and sediment that are released into the runoff as the snow melts. Snowmelt runoff is one of largest sources of urban water pollution.

 

 

Additional Tips for Homeowners

  • Review your home for stormwater handling. If your gutter, downspout, driveway or deck directly discharges into a water body, retrofit it by redirecting the runoff onto a grassy area or installing a berm/swale system. Or even install a Rain Barrel.
  • Design your landscaping to limit water use. Install a Rain Garden.
  • If you have an irrigation system, make sure it is in good working order and limit its use to actual watering needs. Install rain sensors into your irrigation system.
  • Consider replacing impervious surfaces like sidewalks, decks and driveways around your home with more pervious materials or methods like mulch, turf block, pervious concrete or clean stone.
  • Retain shrubby vegetation along waterfronts to prevent erosion and help stop heavy rain sheetflow.
  • Never dispose of oils, pesticides or other chemicals onto driveways, roadways or storm drains. The next rain will either carry it into a surface water or help it soak into our drinking water.
  • Reduce the amount of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides you apply to your lawn and landscaping. What the plants can’t absorb quickly usually results in surface or groundwater pollution.

 

What You Can Do to Help

Easy tips for keeping our water clean

  • Litter
    Litter disposed of in a storm drain can choke, suffocate and disable aquatic life. Dispose of your litter by throwing it in a trash can or recycling it. In addition, do your part by properly disposing of litter you find in the street or on the sidewalk.
  • Washing your car
    Washing your car in the driveway creates a runoff of soap and other chemicals that ends up in the nearest storm drain. You can either take your car to a self-service car wash, which is designed with special drains for proper disposal, or wash your car on your lawn. The dirt below will act as a filter for the soap.
  • Pet waste
    Pet waste dumped in storm drains goes straight into your rivers and lakes, contaminating the water. Continue reading What You Can Do to Help