Posts Tagged ‘algal bloom’

News to Us

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The Red Swamp Crayfish is invading Michigan water bodies. Credit: flickr.com/usfwspacific

This edition of News to Us highlights both good and bad news on local algal blooms as well as two stories on non-native species making headlines – one of concern, the other of little concern. News at the federal level is also mixed. Read about the implications of the proposed Clean Water Rule repeal and some hopeful news on the federal allocation of funding supporting Great Lakes restoration.

Improving Water Quality In Ypsilanti Township’s Ford Lake
After decades of trouble with algal blooms in Ford Lake, an impoundment on the Huron River in Ypsilanti Township, researchers and township staff found a solution. Changing operations of the Ford Lake Dam has kept algal blooms at bay in most years and the water quality of the lake is improving.

Potentially toxic algae found in two Oakland County lakes
Two lakes, including Pontiac Lake in the Huron River watershed, are experiencing significant algal blooms this month. It is suspected that the blooms may contain toxic algae. Oakland County health officials recommend avoiding contact with the water at this time and keeping pets out as well. The article has a list of recommended precautions.

Tiny jellyfish reported in Lake Erie
Jellyfish in Michigan? Headlines have been circulating on the invasion of this non-native species recently because of new sightings in Lake Erie and St. Clair. And while it is true that this is a non-native species, it has been in Great Lakes waterways for some time now and has not reached nuisance levels. Also worthy of note is that the tentacles of this jellyfish are too small to sting humans, so swim away. For more on freshwater jellyfish see Huron River Report, Spring 2008.

Tiny lobsters of doom: Why this invasive crayfish is bad news
In other non-native species news, the red swamp crayfish has been confirmed in Michigan. This species has a lot of potential to become invasive and cause disruption to the native ecosystem. Their deep burrowing capacity is known to cause erosion, they out-compete native crayfish for food, and prey on small fish and fish eggs. The DNR is asking people to report potential sightings of this invader.

Trump plans to roll back environmental rule everyone agrees on
This opinion piece is written by former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Ken Kopocis, formerly of EPA’s Office of Water. The article describes what is at stake with the Trump Administrations proposed roll back of the Clean Water Rule. There has bipartisan demand for clarity on the 1972 Clean Water Act which the rule provides. Much work has been done to establish the rule which provides clear criteria for what waters are protected under the Clean Water Act. To provide your remarks on the proposed repeal, see our earlier blog On the chopping block: clean water.  Comment period closes September 27th.

House appropriators approve $300 Million for Great Lakes; reject amendment on Clean Water Rule
Some good news coming out of the federal government on the environment front. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, originally scheduled to be zeroed out in the 2018 budget, has been approved at $300 million by U.S. House appropriators. The funding still has to make it through the Senate and White House before final approval.

News to Us

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Children learning about aquatic insects at Huron River Day, 2017.

Updates on local efforts by HRWC are highlighted in this News to Us with articles on the Gelman dioxane contamination, Putnam Township green infrastructure planning and Huron River Day. Also learn how the EPA is changing under Chief Pruitt and a forecast for Lake Erie as algal bloom season draws near.

Court of Appeals rejects polluter’s request in Gelman plume case  The Huron River Watershed Council will continue to have a seat at the table for negotiations around the dioxane contamination of groundwater in Ann Arbor and Scio Township. An appeal by Gelman Sciences, Inc. was rejected by the Michigan Court of Appeals allowing HRWC, the City of Ann Arbor, Scio Township and Washtenaw County to be involved in clean up negotiations with the State and Gelman.

Putnam Township Looks To Establish “Green Infrastructure”  Putnam Township is the latest community to be working with HRWC to plan for development and the protection of valuable natural resources at the same time.  Learn more about HRWC’s Green Infrastructure Planning program here.

37th annual Huron River Day brings thousands to the water  Enjoy a fun gallery of photographs of people enjoying the river on Huron River Day earlier this month.  This annual event brings many to the river, providing an opportunity to teach people about the Huron and how to care for it.

Counseled by Industry, Not Staff, E.P.A. Chief Is Off to a Blazing Start  So much of what HRWC is able to accomplish is supported by the work of the EPA.  The Clean Water Act and associated funding streams help determine standards for water quality and provide money for projects to clean up impaired waters. This article summarizes the ways that EPA Chief Pruitt is undermining all this country has worked for to provide clean and safe air, water and land. The implications are far reaching and potentially devastating.

Forecasters: Lake Erie algae bloom shaping up as big and possibly harmful  Algal bloom season is upon us and predictions don’t look good for Lake Erie. The Huron River’s receiving waters, are expected to experience an algal bloom that rivals those that occurred in 2011 and 2015 which were the two largest blooms since the 1990’s.

News to Us

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Mulching fall leaves is a river friendly practice. Photo credit: Dean Hochman via Flickr Creative Commons license.

HRWC’s commitment to compiling and sharing noteworthy water-related news continues. This month’s News to Us covers the recent listing of Lake Erie as impaired waters, problems associated with low density development, a great river recovery story and some tips on good river “housekeeping” for autumn leaves.

 

Conservation Groups Applaud Michigan’s Inclusion of Lake Erie in Impaired Waters Report
Last week the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality listed western Lake Erie as impaired waters under the Clean Water Act. Environmental groups have been advocating for this for some time now as it will allow for further research, funding and action to address the nutrient pollution that leads to toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie. This is very good news for this Great Lake. Many are pushing for Ohio to follow suit.

Is the Infrastructure ‘Time Bomb’ Beginning to Blow?
It may not be immediately obvious, but low density development—what we see in suburban and rural areas where homes are built on large lots far from city centers—is not good for waters and watersheds. Here at HRWC we prefer high density development in a few areas as opposed to low density development everywhere. This article highlights one of the problems associated with sprawling development. “Low density housing cannot pay the bills.”  The tax revenue is too low to cover the cost of infrastructure maintenance like roads, sewer and water necessary to serve these developments. When this infrastructure fails, the environment suffers. Check out our Smart Growth publications to learn more.

Taking Down Dams and Letting the Fish Flow
Last issue we shared an article about the human safety benefits of dam removal. This heartening story shows how quickly an ecosystem can rebound after dam removals. Three dams were removed on the Penobscot River in Maine in 2012 and 2013. Just three years later, huge numbers of native migratory fish have resumed their migration up the river—a trip they have not been able to make for nearly 200 years!

Leave The Leaves–Putting Organic Waste To Work
Leaves and grass that make their way into waterways add excess nutrients and use up valuable oxygen as they decompose. Local Master Composter Nancy Stone gives advice on how to utilize fall yard waste to maximize the benefits of fallen leaves. Leaves can be used in your yard to improve your soil and reduce weed growth. Nancy recommends mowing the leaves into your lawn. Mulching leaves can also reduce the greenhouse gas methane. Give this interview a listen as you are getting ready to clean up fall leaves. For more tips on river friendly home care visit our pollution prevention page.

News to Us

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Volunteers installing an osprey nesting platform in the Huron River. Photo credit: 7 Cylinders Studio

Local osprey are being outfitted with tracking devices so you and researches can monitor their travels, a new online learning opportunity will improve your knowledge of lakes, and researchers are predicting another severe algal bloom in Lake Erie this summer.  Oil and gas pipeline accountability has been in the news a lot lately.  Here we pulled together three articles that will catch you up on the latest happenings.  And that is what is News to Us.

DNR monitoring osprey chick migration with GPS. Several osprey chicks have been outfitted with backpacks to help monitor the bird’s movements and growth. Two of the four chicks that will be monitored are from a nest in Kensington Metropark in Milford. There is a site where you can track the birds too at michiganosprey.org.

Introduction to Lakes course coming soon to a computer near you. With over 11,000 inland lakes, Michigan is home to many lake enthusiasts. If that describes you and you have always wanted to know more, Michigan State University Extension is now offering an online course providing in introduction to lakes.

‘Severe’ algal blooms forecast this summer on Lake Erie. Researchers are predicting a more significant algal bloom this year than the one last summer that shutdown Toledo’s water supply for several days. The bloom won’t necessarily lead to issues with drinking water but will certainly impact recreation on Lake Erie and the organisms that live in the lake.  Phosphorus runoff and heavy rains in June are two major contributors to the severity of the bloom. Conservationists are targeting large livestock operations for phosphorus reduction.

July has been a big month for news on oil and gas pipelines in Michigan.  Here is a sampling of articles sharing pieces of the larger issue of moving oil through our state’s waterways.

  • Life 5 years after the nation’s worst inland oil spill – NPR’s Environment Report revisits the Kalamazoo River oil spill which is the largest inland oil spill in US history caused by a break in an Enbridge pipeline that traversed this waterway.
  • Report calls for heavy crude oil ban in Straits of Mackinac pipeline – The Michigan DEQ led a special task force that released a report last week on the status and future of pipelines in the state. Of particular focus is the Enbridge pipeline that runs through the Straits of Mackinac. Some say the recommendations are a big step in the right direction for safety and accountability. Others assert it does not go far enough to protect our freshwater resources.
  • National Wildlife Federation to Sue Dept. of Transportation over Oil Pipeline Oversight Failures  — On the heels of this report, the NWF announced they plan to sue the federal government for failing to uphold the Oil Pollution Act which requires approval of a safety plan for pipelines which travel in, on or under inland waters. This lawsuit comes after much scrutiny and investigation into the safety of the Enbridge pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac.

News to Us

2014_05_23_Greenhills_teaching_(2)_-_smallIn News to Us this edition, sildenafil HRWC receives a grant to teach students about the river and a new app allows citizen scientist to record invasive species locations.  Also, Great Lakes Echo produces a podcast reviewing the month in Great Lakes environmental news. Finally, the oil and gas industry makes headlines again in our area.

Grant Will Help Huron River Watershed Council Take Classroom Learning Outdoors HRWC’s Volunteer and Stewardship Coordinator, Jason Frenzel contributes to a piece highlighting a recent grant we received to work with K-12 students throughout the watershed to get them out in the rivers, learning how to sample and building an understanding of the condition of our creeks and streams.

To catch a predator: Citizens enlisted to track invasive species  Here at HRWC we are proud of our citizen scientists.  They do much to help support our mission and protect the natural resources of our area.  Now there is another way you can contribute right through your smartphone.  MISIN, or the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network, has developed an app that lets you report locations of non-native species.  With a lot of eyes on the ground (and in the water), MISIN can gain insights into the spread of invasives and how to stop them.

Great Lakes in review: mayors on algae, restoration update This great podcast series recently came to our attention.  Great Lakes Echo is producing monthly podcasts summarizing the month in environmental stories from around the Great Lakes.  If you want to stay up to date on regional environmental issues, tune into this series.  The most recent podcast covers September including the Summit on Water Resources lead by the region’s mayors and spurred on by the Toledo drinking water ban, and updates to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative which now require projects incorporate climate change adaptation.

We continue to see a lot of news on oil and gas issues both within the Huron River watershed and the broader Great Lakes region.  Here are two recent articles on a proposed pipeline that would be built through Washtenaw and Livingston Counties and how local communities are responding.

Rainy and warm? The forecast for a toxic algal bloom.

On August 2nd, Mayor of Toledo Michael Collins, issued a ban on drinking water.  Microcystis, a bacteria*, reached toxic levels in the City’s drinking water supply in western Lake Erie. The ban lasted two days and left nearly half a million people without water including residents of Monroe County, Michigan.  During that time there was much media coverage discussing cause, response, extent of the impacts and who was to blame.

Toledo's drinking water intake in Lake Erie.  Credit: Haraz N. Ghanbari, Associated-Press

Toledo’s drinking water intake in Lake Erie. Credit: Haraz N. Ghanbari, Associated-Press

What you may not have read is that this event is not unique. Increasingly, and across the globe, our lakes and oceans are experiencing booms of algae and bacteria populations that are reaching levels toxic to both wildlife and people. The question I want to explore here is how may climate change be contributing to this issue that is plaguing Lake Erie and many other coastal waterways?

Lake Erie has seen an increase in the frequency and size of blooms since the 1990’s.  A harmful bloom of algae and bacteria occurs when waters are warm and nutrients are high. Lake Erie is shallow and therefore warmer than other Great Lakes. Additionally, there is extensive agricultural and urban development in the watersheds that drain to the lake.  Nitrogen and phosphorus reach our rivers from farm fields, leaking septic systems and discharge pipes from industry.

Climate change can make conditions worse in two major ways.  As air temperatures increase, water temperatures increase.  In our area we have already experienced a 1.1° F increase in average annual temperature in the past 30 years.** Models predict an additional increase of 4-12° F (depending on what carbon emissions values are used) over the course of this century.  Additionally, not all rains are created equal. More nutrients run off of land and through pipes during large rain events. These nutrients are carried from the source, to a river, which eventually delivers the “food” to Lake Erie where it is used to fuel a bloom. In Southeast Michigan we are already experiencing an average of 2.9 inches more precipitation (much falling as rain) each year than we were 30 years ago.  Models predict further increases to our average annual rainfall, and more importantly to this story, that rain is expected to fall in larger events. An analysis of Toledo rainfall records revealed that they have experienced a 40% increase in the number of strongest storms in the last 30 years when compared to the previous 30 years. This is typical for the entire Midwest region of the US.

So, while harmful algal blooms have occurred in Lake Erie for decades, there is reason to believe that climate change is an additional, and increasingly important, factor leading to the uptick in frequency and severity of these events.

You can read more about microcystis and the Huron River watershed in our upcoming newsletter scheduled for release in December.  If you do not receive our newsletter, you can subscribe here.

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*Point of clarification — Microcystis is a bacteria, not an algae, though the two tend to bloom simultaneously under the right conditions.
** All climate data was provided by the Great Lakes Integrated Science and Assessments Center www.glisa.umich.edu

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