Environmental Management

, Volume 64, Issue 6, pp 689–700 | Cite as

Perceptions of Water-related Environmental Concerns in Northwest Ohio One Year after a Lake Erie Harmful Algal Bloom

  • April AmesEmail author
  • Victoria Steiner
  • Erin Liebold
  • Sheryl A. Milz
  • Samantha Eitniear


Water is essential to human life around the world, but there are numerous threats to its quality both internationally and nationally. The purpose of this secondary data analysis was to examine public perceptions of water-related environmental concerns in northwest Ohio. In fall 2015, nine focus groups on environmental health conditions were conducted with Lucas County, Ohio residents. Each 90-min focus group was videotaped and professionally transcribed to maximize data capture and facilitate data analysis. Colaizzi’s (1978) method of content analysis was applied to make sense of the participants’ environmental concerns related to water. The majority of the 93 participants were white females between the ages of 40 and 59. A do-not-drink advisory related to a harmful algal bloom in the summer of 2014 and the possibility of a future bloom were still prominent in residents’ minds that affected their perceptions and behaviors 1 year later. The emergent themes included: (1) avoiding the use of tap water due to concerns about water quality, (2) mourning the loss of a precious resource and their childhood recreational activities, (3) believing there are financial impacts associated with water problems, (4) distrusting the actions and decisions of persons in authority, (5) wanting to stop fighting about who is to blame and determine the problem’s real cause, and (6) desiring actions and planning by authorities to prevent future problems. Understanding public perceptions of water-related environmental concerns can inform practitioners worldwide on successful approaches to restoring trust, educating about and communicating risk, and planning for future issues.


Environment Focus groups Harmful algal bloom Lake Water 



Focus groups were conducted as part of an environmental health assessment with the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department; Sheryl Milt, PhD, CIH, Principal Investigator.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • April Ames
    • 1
    Email author
  • Victoria Steiner
    • 1
  • Erin Liebold
    • 1
  • Sheryl A. Milz
    • 1
  • Samantha Eitniear
    • 2
  1. 1.University of Toledo College of Health and Human ServicesToledoUSA
  2. 2.University of Toledo Infection Prevention and ControlToledoUSA

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