The outbreak in algae growth in the great lakes is a subject that is close to home for me. My Family has a cottage on Lake Charlevoix, which is directly connected to lake Michigan. Lake Charlevoix as well as many other lakes are also experiencing algal outbreaks. These outbreaks are not directly harmful to humans but show that the residential development and other human activity are altering the delicate ecosystem that we need to fight to preserve.
The algae thrive on minerals washed into the lakes from multiple sources including, lawn fertilizers, septic tanks, storm water runoff and sewage plant waste matter that has not been treated well enough. This has been linked to higher water temperatures and lower lake levels. As well as greater water clarity caused by the invasive Zebra Mussels.
Many think the bigger culprits are the Zebra Mussels rather than the phosphorus pollution. Zebra Mussels are an invasive species that reached the Great Lakes in the late 1980’s. The mussels promote algae growth by filtering water and making it clearer, allowing sunlight to penetrate deeper. Shoreline algae, known as cladophora, often fastens itself to the mussel shells and feeds on their waste.
The only mitigation that is known of is reducing the amount of phosphorous that enters the water from runoff. This is the only way people can help reduce future algae growth because attempts to curb the zebra mussels increasing populations has been extremely ineffective. There has been no safe way discovered to remove the mussels. Some ways citizens can help reduce the amount of phosphorus entering the lakes by locating the source of the phosphorus and reduce the amount of lawn fertilizers they use or repair any possible septic field leakage. These are two things we have done to help curb the algae growth at my cottage. We recently replaced or septic tank and stopped using fertilizers on our lawn.
The algal blooms shows that we needed to attempt to prevent additional exotic species from entering the Great Lakes system as well as the need for continued research on the affects of phosphorous and Zebra Mussels and other possible mitigation techniques.
– Austin Wertheimer