Detroit River has big impact on Lake Erie algae - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Detroit River has big impact on Lake Erie algae

Maumee River Maumee River
(Toledo News Now) -

The Maumee River runs through our backyard and into Lake Erie, but could it be what lies to the north that is causing these big algal blooms?

"The Detroit (River) is the life of Lake Erie because it supplies 80-90 percent of the water going into Lake Erie," said Sandy Bihn, executive director of Lake Erie Waterkeeper. "It is obviously a huge contributor to the lake."

Wastewater and sediments from the Detroit area has shown to be one of the key drivers to large algal blooms in Lake Erie.

Bihn stresses that while pollutants from the Detroit River plays a big role, many sources have caused this problem - from farms to chemicals on yards and runoff. But waste water is the only pollutant to deliver a nearly continuous stream of phosphorous into the water 365 days a year.

"Waste water is the baseline of the phosphorous that is coming into the lake," she said. "Farms only discharge into the lake when there is a rainfall or an event, so to speak. They certainly don't put it on their plants to wash into the streams. That would be silly."

While the problem of the large algal blooms will likely take years to try and fix, a few quick solutions have shown how quickly some problems can be minimized.

"We need to look at the wastewater permit, we need to ask plants reduce their phosphorous output," Bihn said. "And that can happen as in Detroit. We asked, and a year later there was 50 tons less. I think that's remarkable and it was fairly simple to do."

The water in Lake Erie turns over every 2-3 years, the fastest of any Great Lake. That means fast, smart solutions now could make a big difference in algal blooms in the summers to follow. 

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