Science meets policy: A framework for determining impairment designation criteria for large waterbodies affected by cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms
Clean Water Act, Cyanobacteria, Harmful algal blooms, Impairment, Remote sensing
Toxic cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms (cyanoHABs) are one of the most significant threats to the security of Earth's surface freshwaters. In the United States, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972 (i.e., the Clean Water Act) requires that states report any waterbody that fails to meet applicable water quality standards. The problem is that for fresh waters impacted by cyanoHABs, no scientifically-based framework exists for making this designation. This study describes the development of a data-based framework using the Ohio waters of western Lake Erie as an exemplar for large lakes impacted by cyanoHABs. To address this designation for Ohio's open waters, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assembled a group of academic, state and federal scientists to develop a framework that would determine the criteria for Ohio EPA to consider in deciding on a recreation use impairment designation due to cyanoHAB presence. Typically, the metrics are derived from on-lake monitoring programs, but for large, dynamic lakes such as Lake Erie, using criteria based on discrete samples is problematic. However, significant advances in remote sensing allows for the estimation of cyanoHAB biomass of an entire lake. Through multiple years of validation, we developed a framework to determine lake-specific criteria for designating a waterbody as impaired by cyanoHABs on an annual basis. While the criteria reported in this manuscript are specific to Ohio's open waters, the framework used to determine them can be applied to any large lake where long-term monitoring data and satellite imagery are available.
Davis, Timothy W.; Stumpf, Richard; Bullerjahn, George S.; McKay, Robert Michael L.; Chaffin, Justin D.; Bridgeman, Thomas B.; and Winslow, Christopher. (2019). Science meets policy: A framework for determining impairment designation criteria for large waterbodies affected by cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms. Harmful Algae, 81, 59-64.