Officials: Flooding could increase blue-green algae blooms in 2019

MADISON (WKOW) — For weeks, we’ve seen the impact of the historic flooding that’s hit southern Wisconsin. On top of the flooded homes and cars, water levels are also high in many lakes that could now see blue-green algae. But experts say although the storms hit in 2018, they could cause many blooms in 2019.

"We’re dealing with a real problem here at the end," said Adam Sodersten with the Clean Lakes Alliance. 

He said he knew a bad forecast for blue-green algae was on the way when he realized how much rain Madison and the surrounding areas received over the past few weeks.

""As the rain kept falling that Monday night (August 20th), I thought, we probably have something really bad on our hands here," he said. 

The flooding that happened pushed harmful runoff into Madison’s lakes. There is likely still more runoff to come downstream into Lake Mendota and Monona. 

"This rain was in people’s garages, so now we’re talking maybe gasoline, we’re talking fertilizer. I mean, you name it! If it’s on the land and it was flooded, the potential for it to be in the lake is pretty high," said Sodersten. 

Once the skies cleared, it didn’t take long for the blooms to appear. On Monday, you could see blue-green algae on the shoreline of the Spring Harbor area and Marshall Park on Lake Mendota. 

"Basically, it looked like someone dumped blue and green paint in the lake," Sodersten said as he described what he saw. 

If you walked along the shoreline at Marshall Park on Tuesday, you likely saw the gunk as well. 

"It’s slimy and gross," said Denise Maney. 

She and her husband spend several days sailing Lake Mendota when the weather is right. On Tuesday, they were out for about four hours as they soaked in the beautiful weather. But Maney admitted, there was an eyesore. 

"It’s still gross. It smells bad. We have to wade like a little higher than ankle-deep just to get out to the dock to get to the boat," she said. 

Maney longs for the day when we no longer see the blue-green algae consuming the shorelines or the lake. 

She and Sodersten agree that all of us in Madison and the surrounding areas are to blame. 

"Unfortunately, the fault is all of ours," Sodersten said. 

"We can change this. We can change this," added Maney. 

With a warm weekend in the forecast, many fear more blooms are possible before the season officially changes. But Sodersten and others at the Clean Lakes Alliance are concerned the historic flooding could have a big impact next summer. 

"With all the phosphorus and sediment that we’re washed into the lake, that could cause cyanobacteria blooms, even more in 2019," he warned. 

Public Health Madison and Dane County said nobody should get in the water if you see blue-green algae. It is harmful to people and pets. 

The Clean Lakes Alliance urges everyone to better control your runoff on your own property. Sodersten said individuals should have a system where water remains on your land and does not run off into the sewer system that then dumps into the lakes. 

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