Environmental scientists from the U.S. and Canada plan to fan out across western Lake Erie to collect water samples.

The samples will be collected in almost 200 locations in an effort to create a high-resolution picture of this summer's harmful algal bloom and ultimately protect the water supply.

This comes five years after the water crisis in Toledo that left half a million residents without safe tap water for three days.

A goal of the sample collection is to estimate the mass of total microcystin toxin for one day during the peak of algal bloom season as well as to characterize the different forms of microcystin and the genes that produce them.

“This massive one-day sampling event allows us to not only analyze the current bloom, but focus on unraveling the mystery of why some algal blooms are highly toxic, while others are less so,” Dr. Thomas Bridgeman, director of the UToledo Lake Erie Center and professor of ecology, said.

Dr. Bridgeman, who has studied algae in the Great Lakes for nearly two decades, and his research team at UToledo collect samples and track cyanobacteria throughout Lake Erie’s western basin once a week every summer during algal bloom season.

“Harmful algal blooms are an international issue,” Dr. Bridgeman said. “The ultimate solution is to prevent blooms from growing in the first place by preventing water pollution. In the meantime, discovering what triggers a bloom to start producing toxins would be a large step toward protecting people, pets and wildlife.”

The groups involved in the HAB Grab on Aug. 7 are: 

  • The University of Toledo
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory
  • Ohio State University
  • University of Michigan
  • Bowling Green State University
  • Wayne State University
  • Michigan Technological University
  • Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR) and LimnoTech
  • University of Windsor
  • Environment Canada and Climate Change
  • Department of Fisheries Ontario