Blue-green algae is native to Lake Erie, the shallowest of the Great Lakes and the smallest by volume. But the lake has been plagued by increasingly large masses of the substance over the past decade. An outbreak in 2011 spread across huge sections of the central and western basins.
The blooms produce toxins and suck oxygen from the water, creating "dead zones" where little if anything can live. Dogs have died after swimming in the lake and licking themselves, said Jeff Reutter, director of the Ohio Sea Grant College Program, who attended the Windsor session. Water contaminated with blue-green algae has been fatal to people in some places, though not in North America, he said.