How Do We Treat Water with Algae?

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The green muck found in certain bodies of water is becoming a bigger problem in recent years. Algae spreads fast, and as it does, it can add cyanotoxins into the water. Everything from murky ponds in the woods, to our local water supply can be affected.

The Problem with Algae

Cyanobacteria—otherwise known as blue-green algae—isn’t automatically a bad thing. Healthy aquatic ecosystems often have some algae in the mix. Yet large spikes in algal blooms can throw these bodies of water out of balance.

There are a lot of factors in play, but the main issue for these expansive algal blooms tends to be fertilizer runoff.

When excessive amounts of nitrogen or phosphorus show up in water, it becomes a feeding frenzy for algae. And when the algae (or cyanobacteria) growth goes unchecked, it’s more likely to release cyanotoxins. These are commonly referred to as Harmful Algal Blooms, or HABs.

Exposure to toxic algae can cause skin, eye, or throat irritation. Respiratory problems have even shown up in more serious cases. Pets who swim in contaminated water or lick the algae off their fur can also be harmed.

For these reasons, it’s not uncommon to see risk advisories or “No Swimming” signs at public parks or lakes when the algal blooms are high. As a general rule, it’s best to keep away from water with algae. But that isn’t always possible. Oftentimes, our drinking water is sourced from areas that struggle with excessive algal blooms.

Monitoring Algae Levels

All across the country, water treatment plants have to keep a close eye on their water supplies and current conditions. Monitoring algae is unique, though, because the Clean Water Act doesn’t currently outline any federal regulations for cyanobacteria. The EPA has a detailed fact sheet about cyanotoxins, but it’s more like a list of guidelines—not law.

Here in Central Indiana, monitoring algae levels is especially important because a lot of our source water comes from Eagle Creek Reservoir. In recent years, the reservoir has struggled with various algae issues, which can make it more difficult to treat water that’s pulled from that source. Algae can affect the taste and odor of our water, and sometimes the regular treatment methods aren’t enough. While our local water treatment plants do their best to keep odd tastes and contaminants in check, it often helps to have another system in place.

Water Filters and Treatment

Different water filters serve different purposes. For example, basic carbon can’t tackle contaminants like lead. And reverse osmosis systems, while powerful, aren’t designed to remove certain bacteria on their own. Oftentimes, a combination of filters is your best bet. It just depends on the type of water contaminants in your area.

Even around Indianapolis, you’ll find certain water problems more often on one side of town than another.

Strange tastes in your water can be the result of a few different things. Depending on what your water tests reveal, you might either need a setup that includes a microbial filter (popular for well water) or a multi-stage reverse osmosis system to really address every concern. Reverse osmosis filters that work alongside a couple other filtration methods tend to deliver the best and safest results.

Managing the blue-green algae problem is an ongoing struggle. Fortunately, there are plenty of water systems that can help keep our water clean—even beyond the required standards. When you know your options, you’ easy to find a setup that works for your home or business, at every tap.

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