The Odessa Record -

Think you might be using too much fertilizer?


--Photo courtesy of Vivianne Poe.

Blue-green algae blooms in Pacific Lake are actually cyanobacteria that can be toxic to humans and animals.

Last week, we were unable to publish in color, but thanks to an advertiser who wanted color this week, we can show our readers of the print edition the colorful photos of Odessa waterways.

Next time you think about using extra fertilizer to green up that grass or give a boost to the wheat crop, give it some extra thought. Nutrients, mainly phosphorous and nitrogen, in our waterways are producing more and more frequent growths of algae and bacteria that are at best unsightly and at worst toxic to humans and animals.

The multiple blues and greens all around the edges of Pacific Lake are due to cyanobacteria, according to Chris Shafer of the Bureau of Land Management. The phenomenon is also referred to colloquially as a blue-green algae bloom even though it is actually bacteria. A high nutrient content in the water and water temperatures between 72 and 80 degrees allow the bacterial growth to explode. The smell is also bad, we are told, athough we have not ventured out ourselves to see the sight or smell the odor in person.

Some of the cyanobacteria are toxic and some are not, but in either case Shafer does not recommend swimming in Pacific Lake or eating any of the 10,000 rainbow trout recently stocked there by the Dept. of Fish and Game. Dogs are particularly susceptible to the bacterial toxins and should be kept well away from the water.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, "Most species of algae are not harmful, but sometimes certain types of algae bloom in excessive amounts and can cause severe harm to human health, aquatic ecosystems, as well as local economies. These harmful algal blooms, usually associated with algae that produce unhealthy toxins, cause problems across the nation.

--Photo for The Record by Linda Goodman.

The lower water level of Crab Creek in Odessa has also led to the growth of algae that is not harmful but nevertheless unsightly.

Sometimes the blooms are referred to as red tides, but this can be misleading since they can be different colors. Also, even though they are classified as bacteria, cyanobacteria exhibit characteristics of algae and are associated with harmful algal blooms. EPA researchers are looking for ways to eliminate or reduce their negative effects on human health and the environment."

Another colorful sight decorates several areas of Crab Creek as it winds its way through the town of Odessa. The water level has dropped quite a bit since its highest level back in March and April. The current hot weather heats up the water and algae blooms can be seen collecting along the shore and floating as streamers in the water. As the mountain snowpack melts, the creek may continue to flow for some time yet. However, the hot weather is also likely to speed up the melting process and leave the area with dry creek beds and even lake beds before the summer is over.

To think of all the excitement that was generated when Pacific Lake began to fill again for the first time in 20 years. And now, only a few weeks later, see what an unsightly, stinking mess it has become.


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