For every summer over the past decade, the western basin of Lake Erie has been plagued by toxic algae blooms that threaten drinking water sources, pose a risk to human and animal health, and damage the tourism economy of the region. Despite state and federal agencies pouring millions of dollars into this issue, we have seen minimal improvements. On July 12, 2018, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released their final forecast of the season predicting what we and the lake are in for this summer.
Based on their findings, NOAA and their research partners expect to see another harmful algal bloom of toxic cyanobacteria this summer in Lake Erie. NOAA predicts this bloom will be smaller than the one in 2017, but larger than the one seen in 2016.
The cause of these blooms in western Lake Erie is not a mystery and the solutions aren’t either. An overabundance of nitrogen and phosphorus, primarily from agricultural lands, feeds these explosive and, at times, toxic blooms. Michigan has largely relied upon farmers voluntarily adopting better practices to mitigate the amount of pollution entering western Lake Erie but this strategy clearly is not enough.
Take action today: sign our petition to call for stronger protection for Lake Erie against toxic algal blooms
While agricultural runoff remains the main source of pollution into Lake Erie, it is not the sole contributor. Some of the nutrient loading comes from point source pollution, such as wastewater treatment plants or factories. However, unlike the agricultural sector, Michigan required these industries to cut their pollution. The state also banned the use of phosphorus in fertilizer on homeowner’s lawns. While this is a step in the right direction, until we seriously address runoff from agricultural lands, harmful and toxic algal blooms will continue to make news in Lake Erie.
The Great Lakes play a central role in the state’s economy, ecological health, and charm, but these natural gems are currently being threatened by excess nutrient runoff. It is easy to want to protect beautiful Lake Michigan or impressive Lake Superior, but we at the Michigan Environmental Council want to challenge our supporters to not forget about Lake Erie.
We hope to demonstrate that it is not hopeless for Lake Erie; the problem IS solvable. But we need your support to make these policy solutions a reality. Sign our petition today to ensure that state leaders are held accountable for protecting Lake Erie. And share the petition with your network to get the word out and push for swift action to save the lake.
See our three-part plan to break the cycle of algae blooms here:
Part One: Digging Deeper: How can healthy soil lead to clean water?
Part Two: Plugging the Leak: Help us keep raw sewage out of our waters
Part Three: Cultivating a better Future: How Michigan farmers can help prevent algae blooms