TOLEDO — Here's another reason to keep phosphorous and nitrogen out of Lake Erie: Yellow water.
Granted, it's not nearly as common — at least in the western basin — as the blue-green hue of cyanobacteria that people commonly refer to as algae.
But Craig Stow of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor told journalists Wednesday that more water-treatment plant operators should be on the lookout for stuff that's yellow.
Low oxygen in the water column.
Stow, a NOAA aquatic ecosystem modeling scientist, explained that when so many nutrients float around in a given portion of the lake, it enters a state of hypoxia, a scientific word for oxygen-deprived.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, hypoxic conditions exist in pockets of water in which dissolved oxygen concentration falls to only 2 to 3 milligrams per liter.
NOAA has determined that when oxygen concentration falls even further, to about 1 mg/l, it causes lake-bottom soil to release manganese, which turns water yellow and causes distinctive rust-like taste and odors.
Although water-treatment plants can effectively neutralize heavy manganese releases with chemicals such as potassium permanganate, it takes quick action and the right dosage.
Potential manganese releases are now one of the things NOAA is trying to predict more accurately in advance, to give treatment-plant operators more time to react, especially for plants near...
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