Think you’ve spotted some wicked algae in your favorite public pond or lake?

Want someone to check to make sure it’s safe to swim, boat or fish there?

All you have to do is determine turbidity and identify pre-oxidants.


The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has posted a form on its new "Algae Awareness 101" website for the public to report blue-green algae, the toxic stuff that plagued Ohio waterways last summer.

The four-page form starts out easy enough. Where and when did you see the algae bloom? How big is it? What color is the water? (The choices include pink and purple.)

Then things get, well, complicated.

Dissolved oxygen level? Secchi disk value? Cell count or biovolume?

"(The public) can fill out only the information they know," said Ohio EPA spokeswoman Heidi Griesmer. "It’s OK if there are blank spaces."

Count on it.

Another question: "Please describe your backwash and sludge recycling processes and how frequently waste sludge is removed from the plant."

Griesmer said the forms were written primarily to be used by Ohio Department of Natural Resources staff in state parks.

"It would be difficult for John Q. Public to fill out a form and get a useful product," said David Culver, an algae expert and director of Ohio State University’s limnology laboratory, which studies lakes and ponds.

"It might be better to just say, ‘Maybe you should send somebody out here to look at this.’"

Fed by phosphorus in manure, fertilizers and sewage, blue-green algae can grow thick in lakes and ponds. Toxic algae, also called cyanobacteria, were first detected in the summer of 2009 and found in 20 Ohio waterways last year.

An algae bloom emerged late last June in Grand Lake St. Marys, covering large sections of the 13,000-acre lake in scum that smelled like sewage.

The online reports have been available in years past but are now more accessible with the new website.

Griesmer said the Ohio EPA has received one report from a resident near Grand Lake St. Marys so far this spring.

Wisconsin has dealt with similar blue-green algae blooms and focuses on online reporting of potential illness caused by algae.

Otherwise, algae reports are called in to the state’s health department.

Griesmer said suspected algae-related illness in Ohio should be reported to local health departments.

She said the state prefers emailed reports of potential blooms, but residents also can call the Ohio EPA at 614-644-2135.

The extra effort for filing a report will not be in vain.

"A lot of times," Griesmer said, "we’ll be able to get a sample the same day or the next day."

For more information, go to the state’s algae website at


By Lauren Hepler, The Columbus Dispatch