State Revamps Warning System

ST. MARYS — Visitors to Ohio waterways will see a new warning system alerting them to the presence of harmful algal blooms this year.

In a news release issued Monday, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio EPA and Ohio Department of Health announced updates to the strategy it uses to alert visitors to the presence of harmful algal blooms (HAB) in state waters. Among the changes are the use of permanent, educational signage where algal blooms have occurred in the past, as well as a new color-coded system of signs to alert visitors at beaches where toxins exceed certain limits.

“We’ll have the permanent signs as an FYI at state parks where we’ve had a history for people to know what to look for,” Ohio ODNR spokesperson Bethany McCorkle told The Evening Leader. “We’ve worked with the department of health and the EPA to make sure the message is the same to make sure there is no confusion. The same sign and message will go out to all state parks where it is noted.”

Orange “Recreational Public Health Advisory” signs will be posted at beaches when toxin levels exceed the recommended threshold. The signs will warn individuals who are elderly or very young and people with compromised immune systems that swimming or wading is not recommended.

 Red “No Contact Advisory” signs will be posted when toxin levels exceed the recommended threshold and there are one or more probable cases of human illness or pet deaths attributable to harmful algal blooms. These signs will warn people that unsafe toxins are present in the water and to avoid any contact.

 Once an advisory is posted, the state will sample until toxins reach safe levels or until the end of the beach season in Ohio.

Grand Lake St. Marys Park Manager Brian Miller applauded the move.

"I feel it's a good idea — over the past several years, we've used a multitude of different signs as we learned more about it," Miller told The Evening Leader. "I think it will be good to have a standard sign up at different lakes, similar to our beaches. We try to have standard signage at all of our beaches throughout the state."

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