A University of Wyoming study suggests there are long-lasting algal blooms in the state, but DEQ staff are still trying to better understand the conditions that led to the toxic release.
Wyoming health officials are once again warning about dangerous summer blooms in lakes, ponds and reservoirs that can kill dogs and make people sick.
As of publication, they have only three lakes or reservoirs Toxicology recommendations are listedGoshen Hole Reservoir, Lake Lazenby and Eden Reservoir. Many more bodies of water have flower tips.
Harmful cyanobacterial blooms vary in appearance, usually from blue-green to green or brown in color. Blooms can look like floating mats, grass clippings, nestlings, colorless water, slime, or spilled paint and last for months. According to the Department of Environmental Quality.
DEQ saw harmful cyanobacterial blooms in November of last year, said Kelsey Hurshman, the agency’s HCBB coordinator.
In low concentrations, naturally occurring, cyanobacteria can be harmless, and sometimes do not produce toxic substances. In warm, dirty and nutrient-rich waters, however, they can accumulate to dangerous levels.
“Several types of toxins can be produced by a single species and cyanotoxins can persist in ecosystems after the bloom has subsided, and the length of time varies between toxin types and environmental conditions,” University of Wyoming Ph.D. student Ashley Pilkerton told WayFile in an email. “As a scientific community, we still have a lot to learn about cyanotoxins and why they are produced.”
Cyanobacteria are not all bad. Scientists believe that they gave oxygen It leads to the “Great Oxidation Event” of Earth’s atmosphere two billion years ago, paving the way for the evolution of multicellular organisms.
Research provides insight
As awareness, reporting and monitoring of blooms have improved, it can be difficult to tell if blooms are getting worse or attracting more attention. Sam Silen, a graduate student at the UW, looked at satellite images dating back to 1984 to answer this question.
Silen used the images to predict the amount of chlorophyll. A In the lakes around the state. Chlorophyll is the green pigment used in photosynthesis and chlorophyll. A There is only one form of matter. Also present in algae and plants, it is not a perfect indicator for cyanobacteria but can still serve as a helpful proxy.
“Looking at chlorophyll A Over this 40-year projection, we find that many lakes have a history of being relatively eutrophic or having high chlorophyll. AConcentration, and few lakes increase rapidly in terms of chlorophyll A“It’s a nod to this historical origin of Wyoming’s abundant bedrock,” Sillen said. “On the other hand, there is a subset of lakes that are increasing or decreasing in chlorophyll AHe said.
Eutrophic refers to bodies of water that have an excess of nutrients and an abundance of photosynthetic organisms. Sillen is working to understand what changes are leading in that Lakes subdivision.
Another part of Sillen’s research is evaluating the remote sensing equipment DEQ uses to monitor blooms. He is comparing the results from the samples with the remote sensing estimates collected from the satellite images.
Pilkerton’s research focuses on the ecological effects of harmful cyanobacterial blooms, including effects on other microbial communities, effects on zooplankton species, and changes in fish diets.
People should avoid cyanobacterial blooms and keep their pets away, Hurshman said. Fishermen should only eat figs from their fish. If humans or animals are exposed to cyanobacterial blooms. WDH recommends. If symptoms appear, wash with clean water and seek medical attention.
While skin contact can be harmful, ingestion poses the greatest health risk, said Lindsay Patterson, DEQ’s supervisor of water quality standards. Treatments such as filtration and fermentation do not remove toxins. Like WDH.
Dogs and other animals can die from ingesting flower material, and although it is rare, people can become seriously ill from exposure.
Sometimes called “blue-green algae,” the toxin-producing organisms that spawn in Wyoming waters around this time of year are instead a type of photosynthetic bacteria, distinct from algae in evolutionary and cellular biology.
“Because individual cyanobacteria are small and do not form long, fibrous networks, cyanobacterial blooms can be distinguished from algae and aquatic plants. Because of this, the wastes or mats of the dangerous cyanobacteria can be easily broken. According to the DEQ. FAQs are indicated on their site Simple experiments using a stick or pot It helps to identify the cyanobacteria bloom.
Testing the water
In addition to looking for visual evidence of cyanobacteria, Wyoming recreationists can confirm one. Map of the state councilors To see where toxin and flower advisories are listed and which are still under investigation. WDH makes recommendations based on information provided by DEQ.
The map provides information on the types and compositions of cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins, as well as sampling dates and locations.
A water body may have a bloom advisory but no toxicity advisory because samples are still being analyzed or because the sample sample showed elevated levels of cyanobacteria but not elevated toxicity. However, this does not mean the water is safe.
“Cyanotoxin concentrations in a body of water can change rapidly,” Hurshman said.
Regular monitoring of harmful cyanobacterial blooms in the state is done through ground sampling and satellite imagery. Environmental Protection Agency Cyanobacteria Assessment Network and reviewed by Hurshman.
“There are many bodies of water that bloom every summer, like clockwork, so to speak. And then there’s a handful that we know about,” said DEQ’s Patterson.
Before 2021, DEQ only tested for cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins in response to reports of blooms or triggered by cyan satellite imagery. The agency last year implemented an additional monthly monitoring system for 25 high-concern water bodies for recreational use and common areas of noxious blooms.
Each month, DEQ visits top recreational areas in each water body on the list, checks for signs of cyanobacterial blooms and collects samples where blooms are observed.
A regular monitoring program has already helped DEQ identify areas where high levels of cyanotoxins frequently occur, and Patterson and Hershman hope it will help them better understand the conditions that lead to toxic production and whether the blooms are becoming more or less toxic.
Hershman reviewed last year’s data but found no trends. This year’s data will be added to the database for further analysis.
Solving nutrient pollution
Nutrient availability is important, and “nitrogen and phosphorus are the two most important nutrients” to drive harmful blooms, Pilkerton said.
DEQ is collaborating with various stakeholders from the Wyoming Nutrient Task Force to address nutrient pollution in Wyoming’s waters. The team “will work to identify water bodies with excess nutrients and then develop a plan to restore those water bodies,” Patterson said.
One of these is Boisson Reservoir, where the team is already working with stakeholders to reduce nutrient inputs and output blooms.
Sources of nutrients can include stormwater and agricultural runoff, lawn fertilizers, septic tanks, wastewater treatment plants, industrial effluents, atmospheric deposition and lake diversion, Patterson said.
This story was supported by a grant from the Wyoming Program to Encourage Competitive Research (EPSCoR) and the National Science Foundation.