14 Nov, 2016

American Lake Authorities are still battling Blue-Green Algal blooms in the Great Lakes

Lake Erie is the fourth largest lake out of the five Great Lakes in the USA. It provides the boundary between the United States (Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York to the west, south, and east respectively) and one Canadian Provence in the north (Ontario). As it is the southernmost of the five Great Lakes, it receives most of its water from the upper lakes of Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

Lake Erie is the shallowest of the five Great Lakes and therefore the warmest and most biologically productive. These attributes have made it the largest sport fishery of all the Great Lakes. However due to the various inputs of receiving waters (generally containing nutrients from runoff) and the relative warm temperature of the Lake; Lake Erie has experienced regular blue green algae outbreaks since the 1990’s.

A recent article was published in the Gulf News. It reported that: “the state of Michigan is designating its section of Lake Erie as an impaired waterway because of damage to fish and other wildlife caused by harmful algal blooms”.

This decision was made after the evaluation of “shoreline monitoring and analysis of satellite imagery showed that the western Lake Erie basin was failing to meet Michigan water quality standards, said Heidi Grether, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality”.

The article goes on to say that in 2014 over 400,000 people in Ohio and Michigan were unable to drink water from the tap over a 2 day period and in 2015 the largest algal bloom in the Lake was reported, “covering an area the size of New York City”. “This year’s bloom was smaller because there were fewer storms that washed phosphorus-laden fertilisers into the lake. But toxicity levels were higher, according to scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration”.

With the finger pointed at the farmers’ run-off being the prime cause for the nutrient loading in Lake Erie, the US EPA and government officials have suggested measures that could be undertaken by the farmers to reduce erosion and nutrient flow into waterways. However Jim Byrum, president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association stated that “Instead of encouraging constructive solutions, today’s announcement sets the table for even more government mandates, largely driven by fringe groups out to dismantle Michigan agriculture.”

The full article can be found at the following link: