Kansas researchers work to understand blue-green algae

September 22, 2020 - 11:33 am
Wichita State

Wichita State


A team of researchers from Wichita State University, Kansas State University, University of Kansas, and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment have been working together for more than a year to understand the blue-green algae blooms in Marion Reservoir.

Blue-green algae is naturally occurring, but can be toxic — or even deadly — to wildlife, pets, livestock and humans.

The large algae blooms can have a negative impact on tourism and fishing.

Blue-green algae is naturally occurring, and blooms when phosphorus enters the water — either from particles on the wind, through water shed or erosion. Interestingly though, the algae is harmless while it’s alive, said Nick Willis, program manager for Wichita State’s Hugo Wall School of Public Affairs.

“You can have blue green algae without toxicity,” Willis said. “It's when they die that they release their toxins. Of course, that's really threading the needle as somebody trying to provide safe drinking water for people. It's best if it's not toxic in any condition and then you don't have to worry so much about what you're doing.”

Furthermore, Willis said, most water treatment plants aren't set up to deal with blue-green algae.

“As blue-green algae blooms become more problematic for public water utilities, there's going to need for them to build additional infrastructure to either deal with treatment or to get a backup water supply to utilize when blue-green algae is present,” he said.

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