Department for Environmental Protection develops Fact Sheets about Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs)

Fact Sheets discuss causes and effects, strategies for managing and treating of HABs

The occurrence of harmful algal blooms in the United States became national news this August when Toledo, Ohio’s public water system and its 400,000+ customers were without water for several days as a result of a harmful algal bloom. In 2013 and 2014, monitoring of Kentucky lakes by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Kentucky Division of Water (DOW) confirmed the presence of algal blooms.

Some of these blooms were present at levels exceeding the World Health Organization recommended safety thresholds and were considered potentially harmful. As the occurrence of HABs becomes more prevalent and a bigger part of environmental and public health discussion, the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection has developed Fact Sheets that provide background on what HABs are, what causes HABs, and the problems and effects associated with HABs including recreational concerns, water treatment challenges and public health impacts.

Although HABs are commonly called blue-green algae blooms, they actually consist of cyanobacteria. These photosynthesizing bacteria can produce toxins with the potential of causing illness or irritation in pets, livestock, and humans. The toxins are contained within the cells and are released into the water when the cells die. In addition to producing toxins, cyanobacteria can pose other treatment challenges for public water systems including taste and odor issues or clogged filters.

The Harmful Algal Blooms Facts Sheets and a listing of waters with HABs can be found at: water.ky.gov/waterquality/pages/HABS.aspx

For more information about the HAB Water Quality Fact Sheets, contact Mark.martin@ky.gov. For additional information of the HAB Public Water Systems Fact Sheet, contact Eric.sutton@ky.gov.

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