CYANOTOXINS IN MAINE LAKES

Presentation at the 46th Annual Maine Lakes Conference by Linda C. Bacon

Link to PDF of presentation (coming soon).

Linda has been working with lakes since the acid-rain era for a total of 33 years.  She is currently the Lake Assessment Section Leader at Maine Department of Environmental Protection, where she wears many hats – too numerous to list.  Linda is responsible for preparing the lakes section for the biennial Integrated Report to EPA, maintaining the Maine Lake Assessment Quality Assurance Program Plan including multiple lake monitoring Standard Operating Procedures, and is the DEP liaison and quality assurance officer to the Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program.

Cyanobacteria are a group of algae that are ubiquitous – occurring in many environments, including lakes.  In fact all lakes support cyanobacteria.  In most Maine lakes their populations are low, but in some lakes overabundance of phosphorus will cause severe algal blooms of these organisms also known as blue-green algae.  In most cases algal blooms primarily impair the aesthetics of Maine lakes.  But for reasons still poorly understood, sometimes these blooms will produce cyanotoxins; such blooms are often referred to as harmful algal blooms or HABs.

The World Health Organization established criteria for safe exposure to these toxins a few decades ago.  Over the last decade concern about cyanotoxins has increased among lake researchers and human health officers as more is known about toxins production and as sampling methodology has become more readily available.  The drinking water ban that was imposed on Toledo Ohio in 2014 brought national attention to the issue and as a result, EPA released tiered criteria for drinking water last year and are currently working on criteria for recreation.

Maine DEP has done some cyanotoxin monitoring since 2008.  This presentation will provide an overview of the cyanotoxin issue, summarize monitoring results and share progress the state is making toward issuing advisories when criteria are exceeded.