Saturday, January 15, 2011

Blue Green Algae Blooms and Anoxic Waters

photo of China with blue green algae blooms

Okay sure it might look pretty but what is often pretty isn't so good for us.  Blue-green algae blooms lead to the death of oxygen in water.  What?  No, really it does happen and all too often.

I realize that today is Saturday and I was going to save my environmental posts for Sundays but I'm going to be busy tomorrow and thought I'd better do my post now.  So here it is.

First off I'll explain just what Anoxic Waters are. When too much organic materials are dumped into waters they start to decompose and the bacteria that eats through the organic materials uses up the available oxygen in the water.  So is it the fault of the bacteria that is doing its job?  Nope.  We are at fault for the anoxic waters.  Just one example is the farmers that live on the edge of water systems who often dump their excess fertilizers, organic matter like cow poop and pig poop into the waterways.  Overloading the waterways with the organic matter causes the ecosystem to die off.  No more fish, toxic waters, and bad smells are the end result.  More examples are when we have heavy rainfall that cause run off of organic matter like plants into the waterways. Aquaculture operations and sewage discharge from, boats, yachts, and ships are also the culprits.  We can't do much about the excess rainfall but we can do something about how we dispose of our own organic materials.  If you want clean drinking water think before you discharge your organic materials into a water system.

Okay so that is quite simplistic I realize but I'm trying to reach the masses with these postings.

Now for the blue green algae blooms and how they do the same thing and how we can try to help fix the problem.  First off what exactly are blue green algae blooms?  They are cyanobacteria which is a microscopic bacteria that feeds off of photosynthesis.  Basically they need a good light source in order to grow so that is why you find them on top of water.  They are fast growing and block out the sunlight from reaching to the bottom of the water where other plants and creatures would be seeking out sunlight.  Your beloved catfish is going to die off if you don't clean off the bottom of your fishing boat before you go from water system to water system.  Okay so those of you that like to fish need to be more responsible fishermen/women and check out the boat bottom to make sure there aren't any blue-green algae blooms attached to your outboard or inboard motors.  Mutations occur when the native species to your favorite fishing spot don't get the proper environmental fix.  Just like you want your nutrients in the form of your desired food so do the creatures and plants in their natural habitat.

Here is a bit more from two resources on blue green algae blooms:

If you are swimming in waters that have blue green algae blooms, get out of the water and wash off with clean sourced water.  Don't eat the fish from those waters and don't let your pets drink or swim in those waters either.  The water can be toxic.

"What are the possible health effects related to blue-green algae blooms?

Exposure to blue-green algae can cause rashes, skin and eye irritation, allergic reactions, gastrointestinal upset, and other effects.  At high levels, exposure can result in serious illness or death.
Depending on the particular cyanobacterium, and the amount to which one is exposed,  blue-green algae have the potential to cause a variety of adverse health effects, including liver toxicity (e.g., Microcystis aeruginosa) and neurotoxicity (e.g., Anabaena circinalis).  Microcystin toxins may also promote tumor growth.
Destruction of cyanobacteria cells may release the toxins into surrounding waters, so care must be taken in dealing with blue-green algae blooms."  from the California Department of Public Heath webpage.

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