Will Cushman: The Health of Lakes

WisContext:

5d1fdfd3822a6.image.jpg
The destruction of shoreline and near-shore habitat can also take a toll on aquatic life, Sorge said. This process is often instigated by development of buildings and other shoreline structures, which often transforms biodiverse native habitats into species deserts.

Shoreline development also increases runoff into lakes, Sorge added. “Once we get to even as little as 15% of [a lakeshore] lot covered with rooftops, sidewalks, walkways, driveways, you’ve increased the mass loading of phosphorus from that parcel of land by a factor of six,” he said. “Our lakes cannot sustain these types of increased inputs if we don’t manage them.”

Please watch the video of Buzz Sorge’s presentation!

Alan Guebert: Corporations Have Rights; Why Not a Lake?

Farm & Food File:

If the ballot box is the ultimate source of power in the United States, then voters in Toledo, Ohio, used that power Feb. 26 to create what’s now being called a “Bill of Rights” for their wide, blue neighbor, Lake Erie. That vote, if it withstands court challenges (one was filed immediately after the referendum passed) gives any Toledo citizen legal standing to sue any person or corporation on behalf of Lake Erie over its “right” to be clean and environmentally healthy.

Lake Erie’s newly conferred/newly challenged rights have farmers in northwest Ohio deeply concerned because they have long been seen as a key source of the phosphorus run-off that fuels late-summer, toxic algae blooms in the lake, that also serves as Toledo’s public water source. But it’s not just Toledo. The toxic blooms, according to press reports, threaten the water supply of 12 million American and Canadian citizens living near Lake Erie and jeopardize more than $1 billion a year spent in Ohio on lake tourism.

Kelly April Tyrrell: Heavier Rain Means More Polluted Runoff

University of Wisconsin - Madison:

IMG_5665-775x581.jpg
Phosphorus, a nutrient found in the manure applied to agricultural fields, makes its way to Wisconsin waters (and waterways elsewhere) in runoff following rain storms. When the weather is warm, it can lead to the foul-smelling water and toxic algae blooms that plague lakes like Mendota, which is situated in an agricultural landscape.

This runoff may be getting worse, according to a recent study from researchers with the Water Sustainability and Climate Project at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. With a changing climate, the frequency of high-intensity rain events is on the rise. These storms bring heavy rains over a short period of time and exacerbate phosphorus runoff from manure-covered agricultural fields, more so than scientists expected.

“Both things are bad for water quality – too much manure is bad and too many intense storms are bad, too,” says lead author of the study in Environmental Research Letters, Melissa Motew. “This is a story about how one problem really compounds another problem.”

John Seewer: States Agree to Reduce Phosphorus Runoff to Lake Erie

Associated Press:

Ohio and Michigan have agreed to sharply reduce phosphorus runoff blamed for a rash of harmful algae blooms on Lake Erie that have contaminated drinking water supplies and contributed to oxygen-deprived dead zones where fish can’t survive.

The two states along with Ontario, Canada, said Friday that they will work to cut the amount of phosphorus flowing into western Lake Erie by 40 percent within the next 10 years.

It’s a significant move to combat the algae blooms that have taken hold in the western third of the lake over the last decade and colored some of its waters a shade of green that’s drawn comparisons to pea soup and the Incredible Hulk.

Researchers have linked the toxic algae to phosphorus from farm fertilizers, livestock manure and sewage treatment plants that flows into rivers and streams draining into the lake.

The goal will need to be followed up with effective actions. Lake Erie is a great resource, and it is great to see politicians making commitments to clean up this lake.

Polluters Don't Pay

Chad Selweski, reporting for The Macomb Daily:

Two days after Oakland County officials admitted that they dumped an unprecedented 2.1 billion gallons of partially treated sewage into the Macomb County waterways during the massive Aug. 11 storm, environmental activists on Thursday called for a return to the policing of polluters that was in place several years ago.

These activists warned that drenching rainstorms are becoming more common, and sewage system overflows packed with fertilizers and other “nutrient-rich” discharges will increasingly lead to a Lake St. Clair shoreline plagued by algae, tainted water and seaweed-style aquatic plants dominating the water surface.
The polluted Red Run Drain in Warren

The polluted Red Run Drain in Warren

Once you start down the dark path of mixing sewage with storm runoff, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will.

Agricultural Runoff is Polluting the Lake

Tom Henry, reporting for The Blade:

Jeff Reutter, the Ohio Sea Grant and Ohio State University Stone Laboratory director, frequently makes this point to groups hearing any one of the dozens of presentations he makes each year: More than two-thirds of today’s phosphorus in western Lake Erie comes from agricultural runoff. In the 1960s, more than two-thirds of it came from poor sewage treatment...

While people in Toledo may think of Lake Erie water quality as a sewage or factory issue, it is increasingly an agricultural land-use issue. The Maumee River watershed — the largest and the most important for western Lake Erie — is 73 percent agricultural land, Ms. Johnson said.

Mr. Reutter and other officials have been part of a state task force studying the phosphorus problem, which — to no one’s surprise — generally has been trending upward since 1995, when the first major bloom of toxic microcystis algae was detected in western Lake Erie since the 1970s.

One exception was during the drought of 2012. That, according to Mr. Reutter, only amplifies the strong correlation between agricultural runoff and western Lake Erie algae. In its latest report, the task force called for a 40 percent reduction in farm runoff.

Powerful the agricultural interests have become, the dark side I sense in them.

Lake Erie is Polluted

Behind Toledo’s Water Crisis, a Long-Troubled Lake Erie
By Michael Wines, The New York Times:

Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP

Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP

It took a serendipitous slug of toxins and the loss of drinking water for a half-million residents to bring home what scientists and government officials in this part of the county have been saying for years: Lake Erie is in trouble, and getting worse by the year.

Flooded by tides of phosphorus washed from fertilized farms, cattle feedlots and leaky septic systems, the most intensely developed of the Great Lakes is increasingly being choked each summer by thick mats of algae, much of it poisonous. What plagues Toledo and, experts say, potentially all 11 million lakeside residents, is increasingly a serious problem across the United States.

But while there is talk of action — and particularly in Ohio, real action — there also is widespread agreement that efforts to address the problem have fallen woefully short. And the troubles are not restricted to the Great Lakes. Poisonous algae are found in polluted inland lakes from Minnesota to Nebraska to California, and even in the glacial-era kettle ponds of Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

If you don't advance new pollution control efforts now — if you choose the quick and easy path — you will become an agent of darkness.

Huge ‘green’ parking lot will reduce Lake St. Clair pollution

Chad Selweski, reporting for Macomb Daily:

 

For two decades, Macomb County officials wrestled with the pollution problems plaguing Lake St. Clair and have concluded that a major cause of the foul waters is the rainwater that runs off of streets and parking lots into the lake.

We solve our storm water runoff problems acre by acre.