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#LoveYourWatershed helps combat blue-green algae blooms later in the season

Posted at 5:08 AM, Nov 24, 2020

GREEN BAY, Wis. (NBC 26) -- We are seeing warmer temperatures in fall and winter across Northeast Wisconsin.

This is expanding the blue-green algae bloom season in our lakes and rivers.

New Water's #LoveYourWatershed initiative highlights some things you can do at home this time of the year that could help.

Blue-green algae blooms in warm, calm waters.

We are seeing it more and more in Lake Winnebago, the Fox River, and in the bay of Green Bay later in the year. It poses a public health risk.

"At the end of the season when they die they release neuro and liver toxins," said Julia Noordyk, a Water Quality Specialist with the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute. "If you're exposed to them through physical contact or sometimes even breathing, you could have negative reactions."

It can cause rashes, stomach issues and it can even be fatal if your pets drink it.

"The water is bright green. Some of the more severe blooms look like paint, like teal paint or green paint or even white sometimes," said Noordyk. "It can be scummy. That's water you want to stay out of."

The main cause is excess nutrients coming down from agricultural areas.

When the blooms die they sink to the bottom of the bay creating negative impacts on our natural habitats.

"We have a dead zone every year in the bay of Green Bay because we have these large blooms happening and then consuming all of the oxygen in the bay," said Noordyk.

There are ways we can help.

"This truly is a treasure to have Green Bay and to have all of this natural fresh water around us," said Erin Houghton, a Watershed Programs Manager with NEW Water. "It serves a purpose. It serves us for drinking water. It serves us for our industries. It's part of who we are and there is a great responsibility in that in taking care of that and trying to make that resource last."

That's where #LoveYourWatershed comes into play.

"Part of our efforts in improving our water quality in our northeast region is about bringing the community together," said Houghton.

Coming up on Thanksgiving, NEW Water is reminding folks to avoid putting "FOG" down the drain. That stands for fat, oils and grease.

Once snow and freezing rain comes our way salt will be entering the equation as well. Make sure you use the appropriate amount.

You can also adopt a storm drain and clear the drain of any leaves or debris.

"Those storm drains drain our roadways and our neighborhoods directly to our local rivers and streams and none of that water is treated," said Houghton.

If everyone does their part we could start making an effect on a larger scale.

Some other things you can do to love your watershed include:

  • Picking up pet waste
  • Raking leaves in your yard
  • Using a rain barrel to collect rain water for watering plants and gardens
  • Don't flush your medications down the toilet

For more information, click here.