Algae Booming in Puget Sound

May 15, 2012

All this warm weather is making for a lot of shiny happy people in Western Washington. Turns out the algae in the waters of Puget Sound are feeling the same way. Ashley Ahearn reports that algal blooms are making one scientist take note.

Christopher Krembs goes up in an airplane over Puget Sound once a month and photographs everything from oil sheens to stormwater runoff.

He’s an oceanographer with the Washington Department of Ecology and his work contributes to a project called “Eyes Over Puget Sound”. The program monitors water quality and conditions from the air.

But when he came down from his regular flight this week Krembs said things are looking different out on the water.

Krembs: “We’ve been doing this for 2.5 years. I have not seen a bloom that strong. Definitely this is worth noting.”

Algae populations boom during sunny warm weather. The spring snowmelt funneling out of rivers into Puget Sound also provides a lot of nutrients for the algae and calm winds have made for an ideal growing environment.

Krembs says these appear to be the normal native varieties of Puget Sound, he just hasn’t seem blooms of this intensity before.

Krembs: "It looked like, imagine this, you have an old coffee cup sitting on your desk with some cream for three days and you look into it. That’s what it looked like."

Ecology will notify shellfishermen and other agencies, including the Department of Health, so they can conduct on the ground testing and monitoring of the blooms.

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio