Researcher Ted Harris playfully described algae blooms on lakes and ponds in Kansas as yucky blue-green goo Thursday for state lawmakers sorting through complexities of maintaining a quality water supply.
Harris, assistant research professor at the Kansas Biological Survey, said more research was needed to crack mysteries of sludge capable of killing animals, sickening humans and creating nasty odors in large bodies of water.
"Of course, they can be harmless," he said of the blooms. "They can also produce really potent toxins. Actually, some of these toxins are even more toxic than cobra venom."
The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee gathered testimony on the algae problem, sediment buildup in reservoirs and future of the Ogallala Aquifer.
Harris said collection and study of sediment layers could help reveal why blooms grow and die without reason, and what interventions might limit infestation. Climate data might offer clues, he said.
That level of work will require time and funding, he said. The Kansas Biological Survey is located at the University of Kansas.
"That's the million-dollar question. How do we stop them?" Harris said. "We find them everywhere. Farm ponds. Small ponds. All the reservoirs have a little bit of this stuff growing."
He said troublesome algae thrived in water receiving ingredients of farm fertilizers and grew quickly during the warmest months of the year in Kansas.
Consequences of the blooms can be witnessed when people recoil from recreation near a smelly body of water, he said. The toxins can deprive communities of a pleasing drinking water supply, he said.
He said blooms also could set off a chain of events depriving fish of sufficient oxygen to survive and result in the death of animals, most often dogs that interact with tainted water.