Nov 22, 2013

Lake Erie Is Dying Again, And Warmer Waters And Wetter Weather Are To Blame | ThinkProgress

ThinkProgressThink Progress "North America's Dead Sea" is the nickname Lake Erie was given in the 1960s. Nearly 64 million pounds of phosphorus flowed into the lake each year from factories, sewer systems, fertilized farms and lawns. The nutrient pollution caused massive algal blooms which were often not only toxic themselves, but caused enormous dead zones in the lake, killing off fish and other marine life. The U.S. and Canada spent over $8 million in the 70s and 80s to upgrade lakeside sewage plants and dramatically cut phosphates in household detergents. And gradually, the lake began to come back to life, fish populations recovered and the lake's $10 billion tourism industry rebounded.

Now, scientists worry, Lake Erie is dying again. Gradually increasing levels of phosphorus runoff over the years are the primary culprit, but researchers warn that climate change is also playing its part — making a bad situation much worse.

In 2011, close to 20 percent of Lake Erie was covered in a layer of pea soup colored, scummy algal bloom that despoiled beaches all summer long and clogged boat motors well into the fall. The algae was microcystis, a form of blue-green algae that produces liver toxins, which cause numbness, nausea, vomiting, and even liver failure, especially in pets. The bloom was blamed on torrential spring rains that hit the area fast and hard, breaking local precipitation records and practically power-washing fertilizer off nearby corn and soybean fields and into the lake.