SOURCE: Blue Water Satellite

October 15, 2013 10:01 ET

Satellite Imagery Shows Steady Decrease in Lake Erie Water Quality and Increase of Cyanobacteria

BOWLING GREEN, OH--(Marketwired - Oct 15, 2013) - Blue Water Satellite, a Bowling Green, OH, company that uses advanced satellite imagery and patented image processing is today releasing a time series of images from 1994 to 2013 showing the dramatic decrease in Lake Erie water quality and a significant increase of cyanobacteria. To see Lake Erie water degradation images click this link:

Cyanobacteria, sometimes called blue-green algae, or harmful algal blooms, (HABs) produces a green slime that can be seen on the surface of the lake. More importantly, some cyanobacteria produce toxins, including Microcystins that cause everything from skin rash to death from liver hemorrhage in humans and animals. Several medical journals have reported linkages between cyanobacteria toxins and cancers, and neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's, ALS/Lou Gehrig's and Parkinson's diseases.

While the continuing problem comes as no surprise to the fisherman, boaters, jet skiers, and residents of Western Lake Erie, the lack of progress over the past 10 years has raised questions regarding clean-up efforts. Scientists agree that the combination of warmer temperatures, and increased nutrients have made the problem worse; current treatment efforts have not proven effective.

Milt Baker, CEO of Blue Water Satellite, said, "These images are being posted in the public interest. We hope by releasing this vital information today we can make the public aware of these changes. We hope these data will be a catalyst for new ideas and new technologies to be evaluated in the fight against cyanobacteria. The present programs have not reversed the trend and therefore we need to look at alternatives."

Mr. Baker went on to say, "We have been sampling Lake Erie for a number of summers taking both laboratory data and satellite data. Both these methods highly correlate and illustrate how the health of Lake Erie is declining. In the summer of 2012 we jointly evaluated cyanobacteria in Lake Erie with the University of Toledo and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Satellite data and laboratory samples sent to the National Center for Water Quality Research at Heidelberg University, both showed some of the highest phosphorus readings we have seen in 6 years of testing. These data led us to predict high cyanobacteria bloom levels for 2013 and we have seen them this summer." Phosphorus is the main nutrient that feeds cyanobacteria blooms and frequently comes from a variety of sources and satellite imagery can be particularly helpful in understanding sources of the problem. NOAA used Blue Water Satellite imagery to study how the blooms developed early in 2012 and this suggested that treating the problem early before it became lake wide could be an effective treatment. Satellite imagery is the only tool that can be used to assess the lake as a whole.

Recently communities adjacent to Lake Erie have had to close drinking water treatment plants, increase chemical usage, and spend significantly increased amounts of money to combat cyanobacteria and their toxins.

According to Dr. Kenneth Hudnell, one of the foremost experts on harmful algal blooms, cyanobacteria, their toxins and their effects, public freshwater management policy is not being held accountable, and a systems approach as described in the Clean Water Act is not being implemented. "Current remediation efforts focus almost entirely on the watershed and stopping new nutrients from entering water bodies -- but ignore huge existing internal loads and other factors that trigger and stimulate the blooms and the impaired water bodies themselves," states Hudnell, Vice President and Director of Science at Medora Corp and Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina.

Several experts in the academic, lake management, and water technology communities agree with Dr. Hudnell that new strategies and tools for making an impact are not being taken advantage of. These measures may be less expensive and more effective than current approaches. Mr. Baker responded that his company would continue to release Lake Erie images to build public awareness for the problem. "Lake Erie is already experiencing significant economic loss from the cyanobacteria problem. Satellite and ground sample laboratory data are a report card on Lake Erie treatment efforts. We hope these images will be a call to action to improve the lake helping us to restore it to the natural wonder it once was."

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