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Green Water or Clean Water?

2013 August 6

Have you been affected by or noticed algal blooms near you?

July 12, 2013, Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland by Eric Vance.

July 12, 2013, Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland by Eric Vance.

I remember the first time I became painfully aware that fish, although aquatic creatures, needed to breathe too. As a child, I was lucky enough to have a pond at home. I caught frogs, watched pollywogs and tadpoles until the sun went down, screamed in terror when leeches affixed themselves to my shins, and did my best to reverse evolution and grow my own fins. This particular pond was connected by a culvert to a smaller pond, allowing spring rains to overflow. Our ‘family bass’ often found themselves venturing into this smaller pond and most of the time, back out.

One mid-summer day I ambled down the driveway and my nose noticed the thick, pond-muck smell that really can only be described as such. I soon found that the smaller pond was seemingly drained of its water, so thick with algae that the bass couldn’t move. They had clearly gotten themselves overcrowded, trapped, and were visibly gasping at the air. I quickly became a one-girl bucket brigade, shuttling as many as I could across the road, but it was of little use.

In this extremely small body of water, any change in level and any bit of runoff from our nearby garage and driveway, was going to have a major impact. In larger ponds, rivers, and coastal areas, the runoff from a variety of sources, including a number of land-based, human activities, still make their impact, but the effects are not always so obvious.

Nutrient pollution is one of America’s most widespread, costly, and challenging environmental problems, and is caused by excess nitrogen and phosphorus in the air and water. Nitrogen and phosphorus are nutrients that are natural parts of aquatic ecosystems, but when too much nitrogen and phosphorus enter the environment, the air and water can become polluted. Nutrient pollution has impacted many streams, rivers, lakes, bays, and coastal waters for the past several decades, resulting in serious environmental and human health issues, and impacting the economy.

Algal blooms are overgrowths of algae and can occur in lakes, reservoirs, rivers, ponds, bays and coastal waters, and become harmful by producing toxins that harm human health and aquatic life. These blooms cause thick, green, muck that impact recreation, businesses, and property values.

This weekend, as summer is here for those of us in the northern hemisphere, we’re asking if you have seen an algal bloom. If so, submit your photos and also feel free to include your personal stories on how these blooms may have affected you.

State of the Environment is open to pictures of our lives and planet as you see it. Each individual scene contributes to the larger picture of our environment today. Photos taken from 2011 until the end of 2013 may be submitted through Flickr. All levels of photography experience and skill are welcome.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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