COLUMBUS — Ohio's battle against harmful algal blooms is evolving — and a big part of the battle is keeping the public informed.Officials with the state Environmental Protection Agency and departments of Health and Natural Resources had information in mind Monday when they announced this summer's strategy for harmful algal blooms in recreational waters.The harmful algal blooms aren't algae. They're caused by bacteria that can cause nerve toxins called microcystins, which can seriously sicken people, pets and wildlife.In recent years, the potentially toxic blooms have become a growing problem in Grand Lake St. Marys, parts of Lake Erie and bodies of water at other state parks. At Grand Lake, a full-blown strategy is under way to reduce and neutralize phosphorus and other nutrients the harmful algal blooms feed on. The strategy includes alum treatments, silt dredging and manure management programs.At state parks across Ohio, the most notable change for 2012 will be signs with information about harmful algal blooms. The signs will include color photos illustrating what the blooms look like, state officials said.For beaches where toxin levels exceed safe limits, two new, color-coded, diamond-shaped signs will be posted: •An orange sign — a recreational public health advisory — will be posted at beaches when toxin levels exceed the recommended threshold, warning individuals who are elderly or very young and people with compromised immune systems that swimming or wading is not recommended. The advisory is posted when tests conclude microcystin levels are at least six parts per billion.•A red sign — a no contact advisory — is to be posted when microcystin levels exceed 20 parts per billion and there are one or more probable cases of human illness or pet deaths attributable to harmful algal blooms. This sign will warn people unsafe toxins are present in the water and to avoid any contact.The concentration thresholds for the advisories were established in June, said Health Department spokeswoman Tassie Pollock. Microcystin concentrations peaked at more than 2,000 parts per billion in Grand Lake in August 2010, when the lake was closed to all tourist activity including boating. Grand Lake's microcystin levels remained much lower in the summer of 2011, with only one reading in late August exceeding 50 parts per billion. Lake officials attributed the lower levels to a massive alum treatment that neutralized phosphorus. More alum treatments are under way this season.For the most up-to-date information on harmful algal blooms, access http://ohioalgaeinfo.com as a one-stop source for algae information in Ohio.
Tara Cutlip, 21 and pregnant with her second child, was shot and killed Saturday in her Bahama Drive home. Loved ones gather in front of Tara's home to remember her and speak out against domestic violence.