OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV) – Blue-green algal blooms, also called cyanobacteria, are often visible within our waterways in Northeast Wisconsin during the summer months. The cause of these blooms is well documented, with fertilizer from lawns entering the groundwater that flows back into the rivers and lakes and releases from wastewater plants.

Bob Stelzer, a biology professor from UW Oshkosh, says these algal blooms are a problem for many reasons:

“These blooms are a problem in Lake Winnebago for several reasons. First of all, over 200 thousand people get their drinking water from Lake Winnebago, the city of Oshkosh, Appleton, and Menasha, for example, and these also impact how people interact with the water. These harmful algae produce toxins that can make animals sick and can even kill animals like dogs and cattle. We are still learning about the human health impacts of these harmful algae, that’s going. These impact where people swim, if people decide to boat on Lake Winnebago or have the option to go somewhere else.”

Stelzer goes on to say that this also impacts homes right along the waterways that have to deal with this odor and sight on a yearly basis, as well as the fish population, as these blooms could lead to a fish die-off.

This all boils down to what we can do to mitigate these blooms from forming. As Stelzer says, these blooms are not leaving our area any time soon:

“The main issue is nutrients, so if we can do things in the landscape to either reduce the number of nutrients (fertilizer) we place on the landscape or find better ways to take up those nutrients before the nutrients like phosphorus enter the lake, these blooms it’s unlikely they will disappear entirely, but it’s likely they will get better and not be as bad as they have been throughout the summer.”

Stelzer’s team of scientists and students at UW Oshkosh are in the process of a multi-year study, analyzing both the physical and social sciences behind these blooms.