Friday, October 28, 2011

Dead Zone Lakes Coming Back to Life

In June 1969, as Ohio’s Cuyahoga River was on its way to Lake Erie, it caught on fire because of the heavily polluted water. And since the 1970s, the public has started to make an effort to reduce the water pollution levels, leading to the Great Lakes Water Quality Act and Clean Water Act. Since then, levels of pollutants in the lake, such as phosphorous, have reduced by two-thirds.
But the phosphorous levels are back up, claims a Great Lakes expert. The increase in phosphorous levels might be due to storms and heavy rains, which carry the phosphorous into the lake through run-off. The chemical is found in many commercial detergents, water treatments, and fertilizers.
The lake’s waters are warm, creating the optimum conditions for algae, which use the phosphorous ions for growth and development, in the Great Lakes. The algae use up oxygen in the water, leaving little for the fish population. The resulting anaerobic condition of the lake is favorable for avian botulism: “a paralytic disease caused by indigestion of a toxin,” which is produced by bacteria, according to the NWHC (National Wildlife Health Center). The avian botulism and other bacteria can be dangerous to animals and humans. The algae cannot be removed by boiling and large areas of the Great Lake have been considered “dead zones”, as nothing can live with a lack of light or without a supply of oxygen.
              Climate change is causing extreme weather patterns and 2011 is considered to have been a year that had all the right conditions for algae blooms, by Jeff Reutter, the director of the Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Laboratory at Ohio State University. The early spring storms filled the lake with lots of phosphorous. The storms were followed by a long drought, resulting in less run off, draining less pollution from the water.
              Another problem that helps the algae blooms: shorter, warmer winters. Ice on the lake now forms later in the winter, rather than in the fall, and thaws earlier, due to the warming climate and falling water levels. Usually, the cold atmosphere would kill most algae and bacteria, but in the warmer winters, the algae bloom under the ice.
              There’s only one direct solution that will help solve the problem; the usage of phosphorous needs to be reduced.
              So whether you live around the Great Lakes or not, try and identify products that have phosphorous and other similar chemicals which promote algae blooms. Don’t use them. Remember - you have the simple power of helping prevent water pollution in any water body, all over the world.


1 comment:

  1. If there is a way to process and extract the excess phosphorous, it can solve the issue, and the extracted form of phosphorous could be used
    in other forms.