EcoTrack 11: Flourishing algae elevate Lake Erie concerns

Western Lake Erie Waterkeeper Sandy Bihn
Western Lake Erie Waterkeeper Sandy Bihn
Reported by Chris Vickers - bio | email

Posted by Nick Dutton - email

(WTOL) - A walk down the shore of Lake Erie shows a developing problem. Algae blooms are flourishing, and it's raising concerns about the health of the lake.

"It's a step backwards in terms of what is going on. We want to make sure we do something now that stops it and that we don't have problems for the future," says Western Lake Erie Waterkeeper Sandy Bihn.

The problem is lyngbya algae, and it's clouding the water and littering the shores. If something is not done, there could be big consequences.

"It could go back to fish kills, reductions in fish populations, those kind of things. As a result, this stuff effects the food chain, it effects water quality," Bihn says.

Unlike typical algae, this type doesn't seem to go away as the lake waters cool this time of year.

"Actually it's worse sometimes in January and February if you come here you would see it rolling up on the shore as green water."

Just a few years ago, a beautiful sandy beach is now so thick with algae, you have to shovel it away.

While the exact cause is unknown, power plants, sewage plants, and chemicals such as phosphorous reaching the lake are big concerns.

"We need to do things that can help it, such as dishwasher detergent, if you use that, check the phosphorous levels in it. Some have up to 8.5%, you can buy it down to almost zero. Lawn, fertilizers, when your lawn is mature, you don't need it," says Bihn.

Some easy steps to follow, all to protect such a precious resource.

"Western Lake Erie is the most biologically productive area in the Great Lakes, the Maumee river is the largest watershed. So we have all these superlatives that are really great, and we have a great economic resource to protect."