Why is Lake Erie neon green? While everyone is talking of going green, Lake Erie is glowing green. It resembles a lake of pea soup, even the waves crest green, and this is evident to anyone who looks.
Just in time for Labor Day, this green coloring is caused by harmful algal bloom, Microcystis. Hope you were not planning on enjoying any water activities, such as swimming or fishing. The neon green, in layman's terms, is bad news; when one sees a neon green or pea soup lake, it means do not enter.
Run off sewage and agricultural spill over is not exactly helping the situation. Somebody should really step in to try to remedy this, or at least notify the public of water safety conditions, as they need to test for more than coliform bacteria. When it rains a lot, the sewage and agriculture spills over into the lake, and after a rain, when the weather heats up, it makes for a perfect bacterial breeding ground; keep in mind, spills that happen in Ohio, Canada, or New York, still spills into the same lake in Michigan.
Warm and moist equals high growth. It's that simple. This is not rocket science, but it is science.
Some of the stuff in the lake can cause nervous system disorders, liver and kidney damage, skin disorders, and, as in the case of a local 24-year-old female who is now dead, cancer. What happened to her? Well, the winds blew the stuff from the lake airborne, which caused lung cancer and her demise.
What's the green stuff? There's a couple different types of green stuff. There's algal blooms and muck.
Muck, also known as Cladophora or Spirogyra, washes on shore in thick mats – the stuff you can leave your footprint in – and though it is not known to produce toxins, according to NOAA, it does contain E. coli. This often grows early in the summer, as when blooms die, it float to the surface, and the final location depends on where the wind blows it or the water bottom circulates it. Growing in response to nutrients and light, it is a macroalgae that grows up to three foot long, is benthic or bottom dwelling, filamentous (end to end) or branched, and zebra mussels provide substrate for growth.
Harmful Algal Blooms, known as HBAs and Microcystis, tend to stay in the water column, and though this does not contain E. coli, it can produce liver, skin and nervous system toxins. The peak growth is right now, late in the summer; when the blooms die, it sinks to the bottom, and is often responsible for depleted oxygen on the bottom. This is made up of colonial or circular cells, grows in response to nutrients and light, and it is planktonic, which means it moves passively in the water, as it is a microalgae. Zebra mussels can selectively filter other algae, leaving toxic cyanos and rapidly recycling nutrients that stimulate its growth; Microcystis produces the toxin microcystin, which may remain present in the water even after the bloom subsides.
People have talked about the problems with oxygen depletion in the water, and this is what is known as hypoxia, or areas of low dissolved oxygen, which has been increasing in the lake in the past 50 years. Hypoxia is linked to Eutrophication, which occurs when nutrients from point sources, such as wastewater discharge, and non-point sources, like runoff from croplands, feeds or causes proliferation. Phosphorus increases the oxygen depletion, and non-point sources are mostly to blame for this.
If a homeowner's septic system were to run off into the lake, they may be subject to a massive fine. Are these same fines given to the crop runoffs or the when the sewer overflows? What about to the businesses disposing medical waste into the water, and why do people turn a blind eye to all this?
Everybody is scratching their heads on how to make more jobs, but how come nobody has considered upgrading the sewer systems that continually dump into the lake? There's lots of water upgrades that could be done, and with everyone trying to be green right now, why not fix the pea soup green lake?
There's colorful algae blooms in the area. Red algae, blue green algae (cyanobacteria) and black mold, as well as Lichen organisms compromised of fungi, have gone airborne into trees, is killing fish and the animals that feed off of the dead fish. Red algae causes hives and cancer, black mold causes immune and lung problems, and the blue green algea, or cyanobacteria, also causes a multitude of problems.
So, why is the health department only checking for coliform bacteria? Why aren't we being informed about these other risks to our health? Why aren't local newspapers looking into this with a fury???
There have been articles. Check out Brown Invites Agricultural Department Rep to View Erie Algal Bloom, from October 2011 in the Chronicle Telegram Online, or The Huffington Post's article Lake Erie's Toxic Algae Bloom Seen From Space: Green Scum Rampant in the Great Lakes. You could also take a listen to WTAM 1100's report Lake Erie Algae Bloom Moves Into Cleveland Area.
When it comes to the lake, use common sense. If it looks neon green or like pea soup, don't swim. There should really be more reliable warnings for swimmers and fishermen, but until somebody does something more about this, use your eyes and ears to be the judge of whether to do lake activities.
When the waves do not crest white, there's a problem. When the waves are pure green, think twice. Be especially conservative for the young and old, and those with low immune systems; don't put your head into the water unnecessarily, as the ears, eyes, mouth and nose are direct pathways into the body.
Grey scale spots are a form of algae. For those living near the lake that have algae bacteria and black mold fungus eating away at the inside of trees, prune the trees and use Wet And Forget, which is available at ACE, or in the spring from Wal-Mart and Meijer's; however, do not eat fruit from the trees the year after they have been treated. Use Tilex bathroom cleaner on gutters, spray Wet And Forget on the inside of gutters, siding, shingles, or sidewalks where algae has grown; rinse clean after 24 hours.
For further reading, check out www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/astp/hypoxia-report.pdf, www.glerl.noaa.gov/res/centers/HABS/habs.html, www.miseagrant.umich.edu, www.epa.gov/med/grosseile_site/indicators/algae-blooms.html, http://meeting.ijc.org/sites/default/files/flash-book/algae.pdf, www.epa.gov/lakeerie/erie_nutrient_2010.pdf, www.michigan.gov/deq/0,4561,7-135-3313---,00.html, www.glerl.noaa.gov/res/Centers/HABS/habs.html, www.gerl.noaa.gov/res/Centers/HABS/lake_erie_hab/lake_erie_hab.html, www.nwf.org/News-and-Magazines/Media-Center/Reports/Archive/2011/Feast-a..., http://binational.net/lamp/le_ar_2011_en.pdf, http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=76127&src=iotdrss, www.binational.net, www.epa.gov/glnpo/erie.html, www.ec.gc.ca/greatlakes, and http://greatlakesrestoration.us.
The author of more than 100 books and a Lake Erie Resident, Marisa Williams earned her Master's in Writing at the Johns Hopkins University. For more on Marisa, visit www.lulu.com/spotlight/thorisaz. For more articles by Marisa, visit http://www.examiner.com/tourism-in-detroit/marisa-williams.