Circle of Blue: Algae Blooms Keep Worsening as Agriculture Keep Polluting

Circle of Blue: Algae Blooms Keep Worsening as Agriculture Keep Polluting

A Circle of Blue series show that algae blooms are often tied to agricultural pollution that goes largely unregulated.

The water and environment news outlet, Circle of Blue, created an important six-part series on the problem of harmful algal blooms and the difficult — but possible — solutions. Agricultural pollution sits at the the center of the series because farms are the primary contamination source. Pollution from farms wind up in surrounding waterways as precipitation causes nutrient-laden runoff to wash over fields saturated in fertilizers and manure, as well as the runoff and spills from animal operations that contain massive manure lagoons.

To bring home the growing threat of harmful algal blooms — also called “toxic algae” — Circle of Blue authors, Keith Schneider and Laura Gersony, focus on agricultural pollution in the Great Lakes region. In the series, Schneider and Gersony cover how:

  1. Huge effort and billions of dollars have been poured on failed, largely voluntary, nutrient pollution strategies;
  2. Water sampling finds no decline in nutrient pollution emanating from farms in the Lake Erie watershed;
  3. Farms are generally let off the legal and policy hook when it comes to pollution;
  4. Low-income communities in the Lake Erie region are hurt by spiking drinking water costs, while toxic algae prevention measures add up.
  5. Michigan’s biggest water pollution comes from the excess of manure generated by factory farms, which over-saturates farmland.
  6. Solutions to reducing nutrient pollution, such as phosphorus, exist yet they can be expensive, are often untested and have long time frames.

[Circle of Blue]