With harmful algal blooms posing an increasing risk to freshwater sources across the country, one group is looking for better ways to track them.
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit that looks at environmental factors affecting public health.
"We’ve been hearing in the news media more reports of toxic algal blooms occurring in fresh water across the United States," says Soren Rundquist, the group’s director of spatial analysis.
He says they collected national data from the Environmental Protection Agency that tracked the presence of cyanobacteria that cause harmful algal blooms. Then they collected self-reported data from individual states.
"We found that was kind of a hodgepodge of monitoring for the cyanobacteria," he said.
Some states don’t report at all. Other states report consistently. For instance, New York had a high number of samples that indicate the presence of this cyanobacteria. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that New York’s problem is any worse or better than other states, Rundquist says.
"Upstate New York and the Finger Lakes area is keeping an eye on this," he says. "It’s more important to them, because some of these lakes serve as drinking water resources."
Rather than identify individual hot spots indicating a problem, Rundquist says what this study really does is highlight the need for a standardized monitoring system for harmful algal blooms.