It sounds like the plot of a bad sci-fi movie:
Feeding off toxins produced by destructive human behaviour, the monstrous algae blobs of Lake Erie are growing and becoming more difficult to control. The blobs already threatened one American town. Now it’s up to the humans to prevent the blob from taking over.
Algae blooms form when there’s an increased level of phosphorus in the water. Phosphorus—which is found in fertilizer, farming manure, sewage from treatment plants—enters the lake from soaking through soil and entering the ground water that flows into rivers and lakes. It can also be blown by wind, or washed away by heavy rain.
Raj Bejankiwar, the lead on the International Joint Commission’s Lake Erie Ecosystem Priority, says that the near-record algae levels in the great lake can be attributed to more intense run-off from big storms. “Because we have more big storms, the phosphorus runs off and ends up in the lake,” he told the CBC.
Bejankiwar says the algae blooms are becoming “very difficult to control.”
While the algae is usually only present in the summer months, last year’s warmer temperatures meant that the algae began growing earlier in the year.
And just last month, toxins from the algae blooms contaminated the drinkingwater in an Ohio township of 2,000.
But that’s nothing compared to 2011, when a blob the size of PEI covered much of western Erie. The blob was three-times the size of anything ever seen before. And then there’s the ever-present Dead Zones, areas in the lake where the water’s oxygen is so consumed by decaying algae nothing can survive.
A report from the Ohio Phosphorus Task Force recommends a 40 percent reduction in phosphorus entering the Ohio waterways, a percentage that could affect farmers, sewer plant operators, and golf courses.
In Canada, the Essex Region Conservation Authority has a program to help farmers reduce run-off by offering grants to build buffer strips, windbreaks, and rock chutes.
But as the state of the Erie worsens, the fodder for children’s cautionary tales on the importance of protecting the environment only gets better. “Be careful, Bobby. If you don’t take care of Mother Nature, the great Algae Blob of Lake Eerie (sic) will come for you.”