A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

[LINK] “Lake Erie’s algae blooms threaten its survival”

News that Lake Erie, southernmost of the Great Lakes and one upstream from Lake Ontario, is facing environmental catastrophe again as phosphorous runoff feeds algae blooms, featured prominently in this evening’s news. See the observation by CBC’s Margo McDiarmid.

Lake Erie, once a success story about how a polluted lake can be brought back to life, is once again struggling to survive.

During the summer months, the most southern of the five Great Lakes is smothering under huge blooms of green algae, often thousands of square kilometres in size.

A new report to be released by the International Joint Commission (IJC) this Thursday recommends some immediate steps to save the lake.

The acting Canadian chair of the IJC, Gordon Walker, told the House of Commons environment committee that Lake Erie is in a crisis.

[. . .]

Phosphorus was a problem that many people thought had been solved in the mid-60’s.

Canadian researchers discovered that phosphorus in laundry detergent was turning lakes green with algae.

The phosphorous feeds the algae, which absorb the oxygen in the lakes and create dead zones.

In 1972, the U.S. and Canada signed the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, which committed them to take action.

That included banning phosphates from all laundry detergent. Within 10 years the levels of phosphorus had dropped and the lakes were on the mend.

But in 2011, a 5,000-square-kilometre algal bloom in Lake Erie was a sign of more trouble. It prompted the IJC to launch a study into the problem.

The report concludes that phosphorus is getting back into Lake Erie from agricultural fertilizers used in growing corn for ethanol and other crops. Domestic lawn fertilizers are also a source of the phosphorus, said Walker.

“Every home wants to have it on their front lawn, he said. “It all runs into the river and it’s untreated and that becomes a problem.”

The report says rivers in Indiana and Ohio that flow into Lake Erie are the largest sources of phosphorus, but some of it also comes from Ontario’s Grand and Thames rivers.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 28, 2014 at 1:35 am

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