Tuesday, August 12, 2014

It's not just Lake Erie that's dying.

Image from NOAA, August 3, 2014
What's being done to protect Lake Erie from Phosphorus runoff? Nothing official although some individual farmers set aside about 3% of their land to create a runoff buffer. The rights of the millions who drink Lake Erie water are pitted against the rights of landowners to do what they wish. Actually, what most farmer's wish is that the nutrients would stay on their land and not run off, but preventing runoff has different solutions and different properties and always involves costs. The consequence of this laissez faire policy is a nearly dead Lake Erie along with hundreds of smaller lakes throughout the Country. 

In the 1970s detergent manufacturers were compelled to remove phosphorus from their products, which over a decade brought Lake Erie back to health. Since then, however, the runoff from unregulated farms has driven the lake back to the brink. 

Jeff Reutter, Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Laboratory

"Flooded by tides of phosphorus washed from fertilized farms, cattle feedlots and leaky septic systems, the most intensely developed of the Great Lakes is increasingly being choked each summer by thick mats of algae, much of it poisonous." For more information read Behind Toledo's Water Crisis. 

Ohio Sea Grant recommends that each contributor reduce their phosphorus output by 40%. This would have a similar effect to that of removing phosphorus from detergent and bring Lake Erie back to life and protect drinking water and the lake's ecosystem. 

Pollution concerns persist about tides of phosphorus in the Great Lakes and in waterways across the United States.

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