GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Several state departments have worked together to launch a new tool to help residents monitor harmful algal blooms and know which bodies of water to avoid.
The new interactive map is powered by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Harmful algal blooms are powered by the sudden growth of cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae. Cyanobacteria occur naturally in lakes, rivers and ponds but is often boosted by a sudden excess of nutrients, often caused by fertilizer runoff from farms or failed septic systems. Cyanobacteria also carry toxins — cyanotoxins — that can cause both humans and other animals to get sick.
There are different types of harmful algal blooms with different textures and colors, but the most common are green and look like pea soup or spilled paint. They are typically found in the summer and fall and can last for days, sometimes weeks — usually peaking in August or September and dying off by the end of October.
According to EGLE, 79 harmful algal blooms were reported last year in 43 counties.
If you suspect a body of water has a harmful algal bloom, officials at MDHHS recommend keeping people, pets and livestock away from the water. If you have already been exposed, rinse off as soon as possible.
Breathing in or swallowing cyanotoxins can cause several symptoms, including runny eyes or nose, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, headaches and dizziness. Exposure to cyanobacteria can also cause rashes, blisters or hives. Pets are at an even greater risk to harmful algal blooms, especially dogs.
If you believe you were exposed to a harmful algal bloom and feel sick, MDHHS recommends calling your doctor or poison control at 1-800-222-1222.
The MDARD encourages all Michiganders to learn how to reduce and prevent harmful algal blooms. To decrease the amount of excess nutrients flowing into bodies of water, MDARD encourages using phosphate-free detergents, only applying fertilizer when necessary and properly disposing of pet waste. Natural vegetation can also help absorb those extra nutrients.
You can report a suspected harmful algal bloom to EGLE at AlgaeBloom@Michigan.gov or 1-800-662-9278.