This website is transitioning to champion the legislative needs for all harmful algal bloom research and control. The website originally was established to help advance the proposed Freshwater Harmful Algal Bloom Research and Control Act (FHAB Act) in the 111th U.S. Congress. The objectives of the FHAB Act were subsequently incorporated into the current effort to reauthorize the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act (HABHRCA 2010). HABHRCA, originally enacted in 1998 and reauthorized in 2004, authorized funding and mandated the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) establish a harmful algal bloom and hypoxia research and control program for water bodies within their purview, the oceans, estuaries and the Great Lakes. The intent of the FHAB Act, now included in HABHRCA 2010, is to authorize funding and mandate the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) establish a harmful algal bloom and hypoxia research and control program for water bodies within their purview, all freshwater bodies in the U.S. Just as Congress deems it appropriate to unite all harmful algal bloom (HAB) research and control needs into a single legislative Act, and as the nutrient enriched waters flow from the land to the seas often causing blooms along the way, this website now champions legislation needed to understand and control HABs in all our Nation’s waters. In accordance, this website’s URL is changing to http://www.HABlegislation.com, although the original URL will continue to function.
Support for passage and enactment of HABHRCA is provided by an informal coalition of over 550 freshwater researchers, managers, and other interested parties, and now a comparable number of individuals with interests in coastal waters. You are cordially invited to join the coalition and receive our infrequent emails. Our emails provide HAB legislative updates or issue calls for action. The calls for action are requests that you easily sign and send letters to legislators’ offices through this website, and/or phone your legislators, at times when a show of grassroots support is needed for Congress to take the next step. The coalition is led by Drs. H. Kenneth Hudnell, Wayne Carmichael and Don Anderson. Dr. Anderson, who long championed legislation needs for coastal harmful algal bloom research, joins us in championing the legislative needs for all HAB research.
Dr. Carmichael initially informed Congress of the increasing FHAB problem through testimony given in 2003. Congress was informed of the need for the FHAB Act through testimony given by Dr. Hudnell in July 2008. Dr. Greg Boyer further expressed that need in testimony provided in September 2009. Dr. Anderson provided Congressional testimony in 2007, 2008 & 2009, initially about coastal HABs, but more recently about blooms in all of our Nation’s water bodies.
HABHRCA 2004 expires at the end of the 2010 fiscal year. Enactment of HABHRCA 2010 is critical, not only to establish a FHAB research and control program through EPA, but also to maintain NOAA’s HAB program for oceans, estuaries and the Great Lakes. NOAA has done an excellent job of establishing and administering three HABHRCA competitive research-grant programs, ECOHAB, MERHAB & HAB PCM, as well as establish related intramural programs to help ensure the sustainability of aquatic ecosystems increasingly at risk of collapse due to HABs.
HABHRCA 2010 is needed to continue the NOAA research programs, and mandate that the EPA establish a National Freshwater Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Program so that Federal policy can be developed. Although the EPA has purview over all U.S. freshwater bodies, the Agency has not made regulatory determinations or established guidelines for FHABs due to the lack of sufficient scientific information on FHAB occurrence, dose-response health effects and control methodologies. The Agency has not established the Research and Control Program because of the lack of a clear Congressional directive. The World Health Organization and a number of other countries have established regulations or guidelines. National leadership is needed if we are to protect human health, aquatic ecosystems and the U.S. economy from the looming crisis posed by FHABs.
The U.S, House of Representatives passed HABHRCA 2010 (HR 3650) on March 12, 2010, by a vote of Yea=251, Nay=103, Abstain=77. HABHRCA 2010 was introduced in the House by its Science & Technology Committee’s (Rep. Bart Gordon, Chair) and championed by the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment (Rep. Brian Baird, Chair). The U.S. Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation (Sen. Jay Rockefeller, Chair) introduced a companion bill, S 952. A vote on S 952 is expected this fall. The “legislative vehicle” may be a bundle of bills led by a high profile bill such as that being prepared in response to the recent oil release in the Gulf of Mexico. Because the Commerce Committee does not have jurisdiction over the EPA, the FAB Act objectives are not included in S 952. However, the Commerce Committee supports the FHAB Act objectives, and seems to have agreed that the final bill that comes out of the House and Senate conference to resolve differences between their bills will include the FHAB Act objectives. The president is expected to sign the final bill into law.
Cyanobacteria (a.k.a. blue-green algae) are the predominant FHAB organisms, although blooms of flagellated Prymnesium parvum (a.k.a. golden algae) are increasingly common. Cyanobacterial populations rapidly expand when stimulatory conditions are present: nutrients, warmth, sunlight and quiescent or stagnant water. Dozens of cyanobacteria species produce some of the most potent toxins known. These toxins, cyanotoxins, cause lethal, sub-lethal and chronic effects in humans and other organisms. Repeated, low level exposures may cause cancers and neurodegenerative diseases. Cyanotoxins occur in finished drinking water, as well as in recreational waters. Bloom biomasses adversely impact aquatic biota, including massive fish kills caused by hypoxia and/or toxin secretions when the cells die and decay. There is widespread agreement among scientists and water quality managers that the incidence of blooms in freshwater bodies is increasing in the U.S. and worldwide. Every year FHABs occur where they were not observed previously, and FHAB durations increase. Global climate change, rising freshwater usage demand, excessive nutrient inputs to freshwater and poor water management practices are driving much of the increase. Dodds and colleagues conservatively estimated that the economic costs of FHABs and eutrophication in U.S. freshwaters is $2.2-4.6 billion annually (Dodds et al., 2009, Env Sci Tech, 43: 12-19).
The EPA listed Microcystins, Cylindrospermopsin and Anatoxin-a as highest priority cyanotoxins, and Saxitoxin and Anatoxin-a(s) as medium to high priority. Research is needed to assess the frequency and concentrations with which cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins occur in recreational and finished drinking waters. Health research is needed to obtain cyanotoxin dose-response data for establishing Reference Doses (ingested compounds), Reference Concentrations (inhaled compounds) and cancer assessments. Risk management research is needed to assess the efficacy and sustainability of ecological and chemical approaches to FHAB control. No Federal research funds currently target this research. HABHRCA 2010 and subsequent funding allocations are needed to establish the freshwater Research and Control Program so the research can be accomplished.
Marine HABs are caused by a wide range of species that include dinoflagellates, a number of other flagellates and a few diatoms. These HAB species can cause problems when they accumulate in sufficient numbers due to their production of toxins, their sheer biomass, or even their physical structure. Impacts include human illness and mortality following direct consumption or indirect exposure to toxic shellfish or toxins in the environment, economic hardship for coastal economies, many of which are highly dependent on tourism or harvest of local seafood, as well as dramatic fish, bird, and mammal mortalities. Equally important are the devastating impacts HABs may cause to ecosystems, leading to environmental damage that may reduce the ability of those systems to sustain species due to habitat degradation, increased susceptibility to disease, and long term alterations to community structure. When toxic marine phytoplankton are filtered from the water as food by shellfish, their toxins accumulate in those shellfish to levels that can be lethal to humans or other consumers. The poisoning syndromes have been given the names paralytic, diarrhetic, neurotoxic, amnesic, and azaspiracid shellfish poisoning (PSP, DSP, NSP, ASP, and AZP respectively). Except for ASP, all are caused by biotoxins synthesized by dinoflagellates. The ASP toxin, domoic acid, is produced by diatoms that until recently were thought to be free of toxins. A sixth human illness, ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP) is caused by toxins produced by dinoflagellates that live on surfaces in many coral reef communities. Ciguatoxins are transferred through the food chain from herbivorous reef fishes to larger carnivorous, often commercially valuable finfish. A conservative estimate of the average annual economic impact resulting from HABs in the U.S. is approximately US$75 million over the period 1987 to 2000 (Hoagland and Scatasta, 2006).
This website includes a repository of all Emails sent to coalition members and all letters drafted for submission to Congress. If you would like to join the FHAB legislation coalition, click on the Join Email List button.
Thank you for your support of the HABHRCA 2010.
Coalition formed April 17, 2009. Website launched May 17, 2009, and last updated August 24, 2010.