Lake Erie and its Dirty Mess

Lake Erie is a name I’ve heard so much as a kid that I pretty much know it like the back of my hand. For all that don’t know, Lake Erie is a one of the five great lakes that surrounds mainly Ohio. The lake also extends a bit into Pennsylvania and Michigan, but not as much as Ohio. Growing up 15-20 minutes away from this lake made it the prime environmental topic for all of my school projects, allowing me to gain an extensive knowledge about all of its “dirty habits”; however if you aren’t from the northeast, it is understandable why others may not realize that Lake Erie has been and still is in fact very dirty.

Lake Erie has had a long history of environmental pollution. During the 1960’s the lake itself was so polluted that it actually caught on fire multiple times. The lake even helped to inspire The Clean Water Act of 1972. After the late 1970’s, the lake’s quality improved by 60% but later went back down to its normal polluted standing, similar to the way it is today. There were and still are multiple reasons for this sudden change. A few being the runoff from sewer overflows as well as poorly treated wastewater. Increasingly large amounts of fertilizer from local golf courses, farms, as well as general residential lawns, tend to flow into the sewer and filtered right back into the lake.

The combined sewage overflow and poorly treated wastewater lead to more deadly problems that Lake Erie faces such as, high phosphorous levels and harmful algae blooms. Being that Lake Erie is the shallowest of all the lakes, it doesn’t take much for an algae bloom to form. In the right conditions, an algae bloom can last weeks or even months.  Algae blooms are a major problem as they can occasionally block sunlight from reaching underwater ecosystems that need it. When algae blooms die off, the decomposition from them can suck up a lot of the oxygen in the water, creating “dead zones” within the lake. Algae blooms also smell gross, look gross, and can even sneak its way into tap water if not treated carefully.

In conclusion, I believe the water quality within Lake Erie will always be a growing problem until the city of Cleveland, as well as the state of Ohio demands change and action. I love my hometown and I believe Lake Erie  has the potential to be an amazing lake, but it will take much work, patience, and change.

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2 comments

  1. meghannoble04 · December 1, 2015

    WOW. I am surely disappointed that Lake Erie made improvement and then sadly returned to its previous and current state. I am happy to have read your article, Arrielle. I wonder what it is that is taking Ohio to put their foot down and solve this clearly never ending issue. It would only help the city of Cleveland, and surrounding areas. Hopefully new policies will come into play in the near future. This situation will surely take time, patience, and change. However I know many who are willing to some day help make that happen!! Thank you for sharing this info, it was educational for sure!

    -Meghan Noble

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  2. andrewwingfield · December 5, 2015

    Arielle, it’s great to see you engaging with this important natural resource in your home state. The Great Lakes are amazing fresh water bodies and will grow increasingly important as the world’s fresh water supplies decrease relative to human needs. It’s time to deal with the dirty legacy of American industrialization, and that includes cleaning up these lakes!

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