Friday, November 13, 2009

Freshwater Harmful Algal Bloom

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This website supports advancement of the proposed Freshwater Harmful Algal Bloom Research and Control Act (FHAB Act) in the 111th U.S. Congress. An informal coalition of freshwater researchers and managers, and other interested parties, is attempting to provide the public support needed by the U.S. Senate’s Environment & Public Works Committee (Sen. Barbara Boxer, chair) and the U.S. House of Representative’s Science & Technology Committee’s (Rep. Bart Gordon, Chair) Subcommittee on Energy and Environment (Rep. Brian Baird, Chair) for introduction and enactment of the FHAB Act. The coalition is led by Drs. H. Kenneth Hudnell and Wayne Carmichael.

Cyanobacteria (a.k.a. blue-green algae) are the predominant FHAB organisms. Their populations rapidly expand during appropriate conditions of nutrients, warmth, sunlight and quiescent or stagnant water. Dozens of cyanobacteria species produce some of the most potent toxins known. These toxins, cyanotoxins, cause lethal, sub-lethal and chronic effects in humans and other organisms. Cyanotoxins occur in finished drinking water, as well as in recreational waters. Bloom biomasses adversely impact aquatic biota, including massive fish kills caused by hypoxia and/or toxin secretions when the cells die and decay. There is widespread agreement among scientists and water quality managers that the incidence of blooms in freshwater bodies is increasing in the U.S. and worldwide. Every year FHABs occur where they were not observed previously, and FHAB durations increase. Global climate change, rising freshwater usage demand, excessive nutrient inputs to freshwater and poor water management practices are driving much of the increase. The economic costs of FHABs and eutrophication in U.S. freshwaters are conservatively estimated to be $2.2-4.6 billion annually.

The FHAB Act is needed to mandate that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) establish a National Freshwater Harmful Algal Blooms Research Plan (FHABRP) so that Federal policy can be developed. The EPA has purview over all U.S. freshwater bodies, but has not made regulatory determinations or established guidelines for FHABs due to the lack of sufficient scientific information on FHAB occurrence, dose-response health effects and control methodology. The Agency has not established the FHABRP because of the lack of a clear Congressional directive. The World Health Organization and a number of other countries have established regulations or guidelines. The FHAB Act is needed if we are to protect human health, aquatic ecosystems and the U.S. economy from the looming crisis posed by FHABs.

The EPA listed Microcystins, Cylindrospermopsin and Anatoxin-a as highest priority cyanotoxins, and Saxitoxin and Anatoxin-a(s) as medium to high priority. Research is needed to assess the frequency and concentrations with which cyanobacteria and these cyanotoxins occur in recreational and finished drinking waters. Health research is needed to obtain cyanotoxin dose-response data for establishing Reference Doses (ingested compounds), Reference Concentrations (inhaled compounds) and cancer assessments. Risk management research is needed to assess the efficacy and sustainability of ecological and chemical approaches to FHAB control. No Federal research funds currently target this research. The FHAB Act and subsequent fund allocations are needed to establish the FHABRP so the research can be accomplished.

Congress was informed of the need for the FHAB Act through testimony given to the Science & Technology Committee by Dr. Hudnell in July 2008. The FHAB Act is modeled after the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act (1998, 2004) that directed the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to establish a research plan for coastal HABs. FHAB Act funds would be administered through the three competitive, research grant programs established by NOAA – ECOHAB, MERHAB & PCM HAB.

This website includes a repository of all Emails sent to coalition members and all letters drafted for submission to Congress. If you would like to join the FHAB legislation coalition, click on the Join Email List button above.

The website is hosted on a SolarBee, Inc. server where additional information on FHABs can be obtained in the Science Office section. For additional information, Email Dr. Hudnell.

Thank you for your support of the FHAB ACT.

Last updated June 1, 2009.

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