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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

When is Green not a Good Thing?

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Monday, August 4, 2014/Categories: photography, sustainability, environment, Archive Pick of the Week

When is "green" not a good thing? Answer: When it is produced by toxic algae.

N-P-K are essential nutrients for plant growth. The minerals found in all plant foods are used for both your garden plants and to fertilize agricultural crops such as corn, soybeans, or canola as well. Volumes of unabsorbed fertilizer, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus, drains off of ag lands into rivers where it becomes a major pollution issue. Externally created ecologically 'dead zones' result from algal blooms in ponds, lakes, and the oceans.

The latest bloom of toxic algae is occurring in Lake Erie and has shut down the drinking water supply of Toledo, Ohio.  Microcystins  from the algae have been detected in the city's water. The EPA says microcystins can "damage the liver if ingested while other symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, and dizziness as well as irritated skin, eyes, and throat." Harmful Algal Blooms, or HAB's for short, produced Don't Drink the Water warnings. Just the sort of water you don't want to drink or or use to take a shower.

Lake Erie Algae Bloom, 7-31-14 (NOAA)

Toxic Algae Bloom, August 3, 2014  (credit: NOAA)

An ecological ' tipping point ' is reached when an ecosystem receives too much external pressure, like over-fertilization, that tips it beyond an ability to recover. The natural balance rapidly slips into a new status.

The immediate threat from the toxic algae in Lake Erie may dissipate but the external causes remain and will insure future blooms. "Green" pollution can be very ugly on many levels.


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