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Lake Erie

A view of sand dunes and Lake Michigan
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Today on Stateside, after resigning from his position as mayor of Ferndale, Democrat Dave Coulter has been sworn in to replace the late L. Brooks Patterson as Oakland County Executive. Plus, how are researchers working to address the problem of annual cyanobacterial blooms on Lake Erie?

Listen to the full show above or find individual segments below. 

An aerial view of algae blooms in Lake Erie.
NOAA DERIVED IMAGE FROM EUMETSAT COPERNICUS SENTINEL-3A SATELLITE DAT / NOAA

 

It was this time five years ago that the city of Toledo placed a city-wide ban of tap water.

Lake Erie cyanobacterial bloom rapidly expanding

Aug 14, 2019
An aerial view of algae blooms in Lake Erie.
NOAA DERIVED IMAGE FROM EUMETSAT COPERNICUS SENTINEL-3A SATELLITE DAT / NOAA

The cyanobacterial bloom on Lake Erie has grown 20 miles in the past week. It now covers 620 square miles of Lake Erie, taking up about 6 percent of the entire lake and covering more area than Detroit and its suburbs. 

NOAA

Five years after half a million Toledo-area residents were told not to drink or touch their tap water for two days, the same thick green sludge responsible for the 2014 water crisis has now spread across 600 square miles of western Lake Erie.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Researchers predict a large cyanobacterial bloom in Lake Erie this year.

But it will probably not be as bad as 2011 and 2015, when the blooms covered a large area of western Lake Erie.

Credit: NOAA derived image from EUMETSAT Copernicus Sentinel-3a satellite dat / NOAA

The state of Ohio has stepped into a court battle over whether Lake Erie has legal rights. 

In February, Toledo voters approved the charter amendment by a large margin. The amendment claims city residents have the legal right to protect Lake Erie.

Toledo lies on the shore of the western part of the lake, which is plagued with cyanobacterial blooms, largely caused by fertilizer runoff from farms. In 2014, the city of Toledo briefly shut down its water system, after its Lake Erie water intake was surrounded by a bloom of toxic cyanobacterial.

An aerial view of algae blooms in Lake Erie.
NOAA DERIVED IMAGE FROM EUMETSAT COPERNICUS SENTINEL-3A SATELLITE DAT / NOAA

County officials in Ohio are suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to address harmful cyanobacteria blooms that have plagued the Toledo area for years. 

Katie Bordner / Flickr

An Ohio farm in the Lake Erie watershed is suing to stop people from using the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, fewer than 12 hours after Toledo voters approved it.  

The Lake Erie Bill of Rights amends Toledo's charter to try to give residents a legal basis to intervene in the lake's interests. 

The big concern for many is phosphorus-containing fertilizers from farms. The phosphorus encourages toxic cyanobacterial blooms.  

NOAA, GLERL

Toledo voters will go to the polls on Tuesday to decide the fate of the Lake Erie Bill of Rights referendum.

The referendum would amend Toledo's city charter to give the lake rights, including the right to exist and flourish, and allow any Toledo resident to legally advocate on its behalf.

A cyanobacterial bloom on Lake Erie in 2013.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Environmental groups have filed a federal lawsuit pushing for more action to prevent the toxic bacterial blooms that plague Lake Erie's western basin each summer.

NOAA, GLERL

A new study from the University of Michigan shows that blooms of harmful cyanobacteria in Lake Erie are so tough they can survive the winter.

Issues & Ale: Seeing Green in Lake Erie
Mon, August 20, 6:30-8:00 PM

Black Cloister Brewing Company
619 Monroe St, Toledo, OH 43604

In the summer of 2014, toxic bacteria in Lake Erie forced some 400,000 people in the Toledo area (including several communities in southeast Michigan) to stop bathing in or drinking their tap water. Although the past few years have not been as bad, farm runoff and other factors have led to toxic cyanobacteria blooms in western Lake Erie every summer since then. Will voluntary farm restrictions be enough to solve this problem and if not, what else needs to be done?

A cyanobacterial bloom on Lake Erie in 2013.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell announced Tuesday that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is giving a grant of $585,702 to the Great Lakes Observing System. The money will go toward improving the collection and sharing of data on early signs of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in Lake Erie.

Bill Braunlich

What happens if your dog likes to swim in the lake, but there might be toxins in the water?

It can happen in a local lake or somewhere like the western basin of Lake Erie. Toxin-producing cyanobacteria appear. Some people still call it blue-green algae.

Historical Collections of the Great Lakes at Bowling Green State University

The National Museum of the Great Lakes is hoping there’s a serpent at the bottom of Lake Erie.

The serpent in question isn’t a new type of invasive species. It’s the Lake Serpent, a shipping schooner lost in 1829.

The Ford Taurus at an auto show
Dave Pinter / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Ford this week announced plans to stop making almost its entire line-up of cars by 2022. That means we can say farewell to the Fiesta, the Taurus, the Focus, the Fusion, and the C-Max hybrid. Only Ford's iconic Mustang and a small crossover will remain in production in the North American market. 

This Week in Review, Weekend Edition host Rebecca Kruth and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry discuss Ford's decision to focus on its better-selling lines of trucks and SUVs, and whether GM might follow suit.

NOAA, GLERL

A new report from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency says that despite billions spent in the Lake Erie watershed to improve water quality, there has been no clear trend of reducing phosphorus levels in the state’s watersheds.

 

Runoff of nutrients, mainly phosphorous, from agriculture have been blamed for a series of toxic cyanobacteria blooms in Lake Erie. Ohio has spent more than $3 billion to improve the Lake Erie watershed since 2011.

 

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory / FLICKR - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Late summer is when we wind up seeing those unwelcome blooms of cyanobacteria and algae in western Lake Erie.

But right now, spring, is when the blooms are set up by a sort of equation: fertilizer plus spring rain equals phosphorus loading, which leads to those late-summer algal blooms.

This photo of Microcystis, a kind of cyanobacteria, was taken in Lake Erie.
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

When you think about greenhouse gasses that are driving our warming climate, maybe you think about power plants or your car. But lakes can release greenhouse gasses, too, and the amount of nutrients that get into lakes from farms and cities matters.

Road in need of repair.
Peter Ito / Flickr

Gov. Rick Snyder says it's time to raise the federal gas tax to fix Michigan's disintegrating roads. Snyder says the state has done its part by increasing fees and fuel taxes, and local governments have come up with their own ways to increase revenue. Now, he says its the federal government's turn to step up.

This Week in Review, Weekend Edition host Rebecca Kruth and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry talk about whether that's a realistic expectation.


A cyanobacterial bloom on Lake Erie in 2013.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

An advisory board with the International Joint Commission says the U.S. and Canada should do more to keep nutrient pollution out of Lake Erie.

Sea lamprey
Photo courtesy of USFWS

Lakes Superior and Erie have too many sea lampreys.

The invasive fish latch onto big fish like lake trout and salmon and drink their blood and body fluids. A single lamprey can kill up to 40 pounds of fish in its lifetime.

Catt Liu

If you hit the grocery stores in the Toledo area a couple weeks ago, hoping to pick up some bottled water, you were out of luck.

Several stores completely sold out, thanks to rumors that the city would soon be issuing another “do not drink” advisory for tap water. It didn’t.

But water pollution in the Maumee River and western Lake Erie is creating harmful blooms so large, you can literally see them from space.

A lighthouse on Pelee Island in Lake Erie.
Richard Hsu / Flickr

A new partnership has a plan to keep Lake Erie clean. The MI CLEAR group is made up of farmers, conservationists, environmental leaders, and more. Those groups are teaming up with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Jamie Clover Adams is the Director of the Department of Agriculture. She said the multiple perspectives will help improve the lake’s water quality on a variety of fronts.

“This didn’t happen overnight and it’s not gonna be fixed overnight,” she said. “This is a very complex problem that will call for many solutions.”

eutrophication&hypoxia / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

If you’ve been on social media the past 24 hours, you might have noticed photos trending of what looks like the Chicago River on St. Patrick’s Day.

But nobody will be dying that river for another six months, and this river isn’t in Illinois.

Courtesy of the Isley farm

Blooms of algae in Lake Erie have given rise to a toxin that got so bad three years ago, Toledo had to shut down its water system.

Fertilizer that runs off from farms, into rivers, and then into Lake Erie is a big reason those algal blooms exist.

But some farmers, like Laurie Isley and Jim Isley, are working to reduce that fertilizer contamination.

a picture of the lab in a can
NOAA GLERL

There are concerns that Lake Erie will experience the same kind of toxic cyanobacteria blooms this summer that caused Toledo’s water supply to be shut off three years ago.

Reseachers monitor Lake Erie to detect cyanobacteria blooms as early as possible, but it takes time to go out, gather samples, and then bring them back to the lab for analysis.

This year, however, a “lab in a can” is giving researchers a hand. 

An aerial view of algae blooms in Lake Erie.
NOAA DERIVED IMAGE FROM EUMETSAT COPERNICUS SENTINEL-3A SATELLITE DAT / NOAA

Researchers are working on creating an early warning system that can spot when algae begins showing up on hundreds of lakes across the U.S.

The project sets out to use real-time data from satellites that already monitor harmful algae hotspots on Lake Erie in Ohio and Chesapeake Bay along the East Coast.

The plan is to have it in place within two years across the continental U.S.

Harmful algae blooms on freshwater lakes are becoming a growing concern and can sicken people and pets and contaminate drinking water.

A cyanobacterial bloom on Lake Erie in 2013.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A robotic underwater laboratory has been deployed in Lake Erie to detect toxins produced by harmful algae that threaten city water supplies.

The project is intended to prevent recurrence of a 2014 tap water contamination crisis that prompted a do-not-drink order for more than 400,000 residents of Toledo, Ohio, and southeastern Michigan.

The device is positioned on the lake bottom, where it can provide about one day's notice if highly toxic water drifts toward the Toledo intake system.

The federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative paid $375,000 for the lab.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Western Lake Erie may see the third largest cyanobacterial bloom in the past 15 years this summer.

The Lake Erie forecast was released Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which funds the research.

Cyanobacteria is fed by runoff from farmers’ fields and urban sources.

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