An algae bloom was the cause of concern along the Ohio River over the weekend, leading to a water conservation order in Wheeling.
The blue-green algae discovered near the Pike Island Locks and Dam prompted health officials to warn people to have no physical contact with the river water, and to keep their pets out as well.
Dr. Ben Stout, a biology professor at Wheeling Jesuit University, explained what caused the algae to form. He said something seems to have thrown the river’s natural ecosystem out of balance.
“Well it could be, you know, some nutrient run-off from some of the hard downpours we had. Followed by the river being really low at the same time. A lot of water extraction going on from the river, industrial and municipal,” Dr. Stout said. “And we really depend on that river. But something’s changed. Temperature is obviously is a factor. But probably nutrients are a factor also.”
Blue-green algae can cause irritation of the skin, eyes and intestinal tract. For the most part, Dr. Stout said it just makes people sick, but for people with compromised immune systems, it can cause death.