Can the responsible government agencies bring this massive threat facing the Great Lakes under control?
The Great Lakes are under threat from potentially toxic algal blooms, and Midwestern states are stepping up to take action in an effort to control the problem. According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, Ohio is just the most recent state to take measures to bring the harmful algal blooms back to safe levels ahead of the summer season.
A number of factors contribute to the worsening problem of toxic algal blooms in the Great Lakes. Scientists say that climate change, a rising population and unregulated agricultural process are all contributing to the problem that leaves these natural resources unfit for human consumption and recreation.
Two years ago, a particularly devastating algal bloom struck Lake Erie, leaving almost a half a million people in the Toledo, Ohio area without drinking water for a weekend. The algae coat the surface of the lake and cuts off the ecosystem from receiving oxygen and crucial nutrients.
The blooms have an effect on local economies as well – businesses that rely on tourism and other services provide by the lake faced hardship in the face of the increasingly serious bloom events.
The main drivers behind these potentially devastating algal blooms are phosphorus and nitrogen, which enter rivers feeding the lake from a number of point sources like farms and homes. As these chemicals enter the lake system, algae are treated to a massive feast. The ample amounts of these chemicals allow algae to grow at an uncontrolled rate, and it is not long before they consume all of the other available resources in the water.
In addition to starving the lake’s creatures of resources needed for survival, the algae emit noxious odors that deter people from enjoying the water. And given the phenomenon’s impact on local economies, states are starting to take notice.
Officials in Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa have already taken measures to appropriate funds to address the issue, and legislation recently passed the U.S. House of Representatives making resources available to start tackling the problem.
A press release from the office of Ohio Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur describing the measures taken to protect Lake Erie can be found here.