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'Mahogany Tide' Invades Inner Harbor

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A pretty common problem is causing an unusual change in color around area waters.

Tim Williams has more on the mahogany tide rolling around Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

If you're sitting on the dock of the bay near downtown Baltimore, the tide you're watching roll away will likely be mahogany in color.

"What we're seeing here appears to be what's called a mahogany tide," said National Aquarium specialist Susan Bitter. "Unfortunately, it isn't exotic and it isn't as interesting and tasty as it sounds."

It's also common to the Chesapeake Bay. Mahogany tides are algae blooms that occur every spring.

"It's got this reddish-brown color and it's actually colored right now by little teeny tiny organisms called phytoplankton. So think of just like microscopic little plant-animal type of being," said Bitter.

Though harmless to humans, the algae's life cycle is relatively short but potentially damaging to bay life. But as Bitter explains, they remove much-needed oxygen from water when they rise from the bottom, bloom and then die.

"Lack of oxygen combined with stuff in the water stresses the animals and it's cumulative," Bitter said.

A mild winter, warm waters and abundant sunshine have contributed to the problem, but there are some things we can do to help reverse it.

"Pick up after your pets. If you're on a septic system, make sure it's functioning well," Bitter said.

Reducing the toxic things that wash into the bay could reduce the mahogany.

For more information on the mahogany tide phenomenon, click here.

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