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Detroit sewage contributing to Lake Erie algae bloom

Environmentalists are raising a red flag after Detroit released billions upon billions of gallons of raw and diluted sewage into Lake Erie this year.

DETROIT, MI (WTOL) - Environmentalists are raising a red flag after Detroit released billions upon billions of gallons of raw and diluted sewage into Lake Erie this year. The city is home to the single largest wastewater plant in the country.

"It covers three million people. It's just huge, and therefore it releases a lot of sewage. There's a lot of overflow," said Sandy Bihn, Lake Erie Waterkeeper.

According to Bihn, Detroit unloaded nearly 30 billion gallons of raw and partially treated sewage into the Detroit River during the first seven months of 2011. The Detroit River flows into Lake Erie.

"It's the source of our drinking water. Many people like to recreate in Lake Erie and fish," Bihn said.

Bihn followed Detroit's discharges on the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's website and saw the numbers add up. She will be heading to the city next week for the Great Lakes Week to bring up her concerns.

However, Bihn said Detroit certainly is not the only problem.

"We need to reduce all of them," she said. "We need to find the easiest targets to get some relief to the lake as soon as possible."

Residents living along the lake said they agree. The Schumakers live about a block away from Lake Erie. They said the poisonous algae they have seen this summer was a big concern.  Phosphorus in the raw sewage contributes to the blue-green algae bloom in western Lake Erie.

"It got quite saucy out here," Henry Schumaker said. "Green, looks bad, smells bad. We'd like it to go away."

"When you see the different stuff in the water, it sort of kills you," Joanne Schumaker said.

Bihn said it is time for the state of Ohio to take on the cause. "It affects a few Michiganders, but not as many certainly in Ohio."

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department said the majority of the water released is treated, and the city is in compliance with Michigan Environmental Quality rules.

The increased number of sewer overflows occurred this year because of heavy rain, compared to 2010.

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