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The 90 Day Plan
Thursday, April 29, 2010
If You Live in the Great Lakes Basin, Take Action Against ALGAE!
Bothered by Algae? Let Your State Know
It's hard on the eyes, offensive to the nose, squishy underfoot – and potentially dangerous to your health.
Nutrient pollution may sound obscure, but its results are there any time you see algae piled along the beach, or roll up the car windows during a shoreline drive on a warm summer day.
If you've ever wanted to do something about it but didn't know how, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania residents have two upcoming opportunities to tell officials to hold the line on algae-causing pollution.
• Wisconsin residents have until April 30 to tell regulators they support strong state phosphorus regulations to help protect Great Lakes beaches and the state's rivers and lakes from phosphorus runoff that feeds nuisance algae.
• Pennsylvania residents have until May 3 to ask state regulators to list Lake Erie as impaired by phosphorus, nitrogen and mercury pollution on the state's 2010 federal Impaired Waters List.
"Nutrient overload is turning sandy beaches into lab experiments gone bad when layers of green muck wash up from Erie to Michigan," said Lyman Welch, Water Quality Program manager for the Alliance. "The Great Lakes nutrition pyramid has been turned on its head."
Though phosphorus occurs naturally in low concentrations, excess phosphorus and nitrogen enter waterways from agricultural runoff, untreated sewage discharges and phosphorus-based fertilizers and detergents.
Too much of it in the water promotes the growth of nuisance algae – transforming the water into a green soup of algae and bacteria that can cause foul-smelling water, algae blooms, fish kills, and health threats such as toxic algae and contaminated drinking water.
In Wisconsin, phosphorus pollution was said to cause more than 30 percent of the impairments on Wisconsin's 2008 Impaired Waters List and to contribute to downstream water quality problems -- such as the massive dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico now jeopardizing the health of many human and ecological communities.
"It's time to stop overloading our waters with nutrients," said Eric Uram, chairman of the Wisconsin Sierra Club's statewide John Muir Chapter. "It seems everywhere you go in Wisconsin, at sometime during the summer, the lakes and streams are algae-filled and weed-choked."
"Careful monitoring of nutrient pollution to allow faster cleanup plan development, more effective stormwater management to prevent excessive runoff, and creating a numeric baseline for measuring progress all need to happen here and now," Uram said. "We should be able to solve this messy problem, while creating jobs to improve the economy and Wisconsin's natural resources."
As a Great Lakes state with 63 miles of Lake Erie shoreline, Welch said Pennsylvania plays an important role in protecting and restoring the Great Lakes ecosystem.
Discharges of excess phosphorus and nutrients may be connected to a dead zone in Lake Erie, and the lake is also harmed by mercury contamination -- with mercury cited as one of the most common chemical causes of sport fish consumption advisories.
Weighing in on states' Impaired Waters Lists – which states are required to update and submit to the U.S. EPA every two years -- has yielded results. In response to the Alliance's Michigan efforts in 2008, that state's final report includes a new section about its algae problems, and designates 142 miles of Saginaw Bay and 37.5 miles of western Lake Erie as needing more information about potential algae impairment.
The Alliance has also urged Michigan and Ohio to address algae in their lists and to identify all affected public beaches.