It’s HAB Season, Again.
What To Know About The Toxic Bacteria Lurking In Your Lake or Ocean Water
Failure of Power
Hey, Texas! You’re a hot mess. Last week, Governor Greg Abbott signed a series of reforms and said that “everything that needed to be done was done to fix the power grid in Texas.” This week, Texans are being asked to conserve power (aka turn off their lights and don’t use the appliances!) as temps climb and generators are shut down for repairs.
The grid can’t sustain in cold winters, and now it can’t handle the heat. When do you plan to get real, get prepared, and fix these problems? It’s not getting better on its own.
And in other “I told you so” news, let’s get to our main story.
Harmful Algal Blooms Are Trending & It’s Not Good
For so many, the summer season is about spending time on the water. We’ve all been cooped up since last year and we’re ready to venture out to our local watering holes to float, swim, and boat.
The CDC defines “harmful algal blooms” as the rapid growth of algae or cyanobacteria that can cause harm to people, animals, or the local ecology. They also harm local economies and can impact drinking water.
Cyanobacteria can look like foam, scum, or paint on the surface of water and come in all different colors. These blooms happen in waterways across the U.S. and the world in fresh water, such as lakes and rivers, salt water, such as oceans or bays, and brackish waters (a mix of fresh and salt) such as estuaries.
I’ve been yapping about HABs for years and posted many pics and videos on my Facebook page of algal blooms with dead or dying aquatic life. It’s awful! It feels like every year they start earlier and last a little longer than the year before.
I’ve met with clean water advocates and worked to rally support for this important issue. You can see me here in 2018 talking to a group fighting to stop harmful algae blooms near the St. Lucie River in Florida.
And yet here we are.
In the last few weeks, we’ve seen…
a water treatment plant in the City of West Palm Beach detect blue-green algae toxins in the drinking water
a spike in harmful blue-green algae linked to several dog deaths in the City of Austin, Texas
a swimming area at a New Jersey state park closed for the 2021 summer season thanks to HABs
HABs are increasing throughout the country. A national map created by the NRDC tracks state-reported freshwater HABs from 2008-2020. I’m a visual learner, so I love these kinds of tools and it’s easy to see that these toxic outbreaks are increasing.
According to their data, all 50 states have experienced a freshwater HAB within the past 15 years, and between 2008 and 2020, more than 44,000 HAB events were recorded in 38 states.
California has a huge problem, going from 56 outbreaks in 2016 to 316 in 2020 (an increase of more than 464 percent!) In 2020 alone, California experienced a 60 percent increase in reported HABs from 2019.
These toxic blooms are not a new phenomenon by any means, but scientists continue to look at their connection to agricultural run-off (think phosphorus and nitrogen), which can feed toxic algae, along with rising temps.
The Piney Point spill in Florida back in April wasn’t an immediate issue, but it will result in more HABs, which impacts both tourism in that region along with manatee populations.
The first-ever study looking at trends in global harmful algal blooms did not find a statistical increase worldwide, but that certain regions are on the rise. And of course, North America makes the list, along with Greenland, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, the Mediterranean, and western and northern Europe.
Have you been affected by HABs? Sound off in the comments below!