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6th December 2015
...continued from Part 1

Blue-green algae near Pelee Island, Ont., Lake Erie

Municipals officials for the past two years have had to issue advisories and in some cases close beaches due to the presence of toxic blue-green algae bloom in western Lake Erie. In 2014, the city of Toledo, Ohio, had to close its water intake for several days due to the algae, and issue an advisory not to drink water from the lake.

The troublesome algal growth results from high levels of nutrients from municipal sewers and in the runoff that flows directly into the lake and its feeder rivers. The problem is acute in the shallow western basin of Lake Erie. The growth is accelerated by the warming of the Great Lakes over the past three decades and the sharp decline in the number of days they are covered with ice.
The intensive cultivation of corn in Great Lakes states and Ontario to supply the ethanol industry has been a significant factor in the algae problem, said Raj Bejankiwar, a scientist at the International Joint Commission, which oversees water-quality issues on boundary waterways. Governments around the lakes have agreed on plans to reduce nutrient runoff, including working with farmers to fine-tune their fertilizing practices.

Fish kill at a nuclear plant near Kincardine, Lake Huron

Bruce Power’s nuclear plant on the shores of Lake Huron has been cited under the Fisheries Act for doing “serious harm” to whitefish populations, which are killed by the intake and discharge of water into the lake. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission says the Bruce plant does not constitute a threat to the lake’s overall fish population, but local aboriginal communities and environmentalists disagree.

As required under the Fisheries Act, Bruce Power is now working with the Saugeen Ojibway Nation to assess the plant’s impact on the band’s commercial fishing operation and look to potential mitigation techniques. Bruce has applied under the act for licence to kill millions of fish.

Environmentalists and some local residents also worry about Ontario Power Generation’s plan to build a nuclear waste repository deep underground, just a kilometre from the Lake Huron shore. The panel comprising the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has concluded the deep geological repository does not pose an undue threat to the lake, but critics – and several U.S. politicians – argue any risk to the Great Lakes in unacceptable. The federal Liberal government last week delayed a final decision on the repository until March 1.

Dead zone near Green Bay, Wis., Lake Michigan

In Lake Michigan’s Green Bay, municipal, industrial and farm runoff is causing a growing dead zone, in which algae consumes virtually all the oxygen necessary for aquatic life.

Local environmentalists point to the proliferation of industrial dairies in Kewaunee County as a contributing factor due to leaks and storm runoff from manure ponds. They have also raised concerns about liquid manure spread on fields as fertilizer, contaminating drinking-water wells.
Citizens in Kewaunee County have petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the contamination of ground water and force state regulators to act.

Mercury pollution in Thunder Bay’s North Harbour, Lake Superior

The city’s north harbour contained some 400,000 square metres of contaminated sediment with elevated levels of mercury and other industrial pollutants from a former paper mill. Reclamation of the site is one of the International Joint Commission’s requirements to remove the Thunder Bay waterfront from its list of “areas of concern.”

The area provides habitat for perch, walleye, northern pike and a host of smaller fish, and consultants’ reports say it could be reclaimed as a recreational fishing spot if it was remediated.
EcoSuperior, a local environmental group, has worked with consultants and government scientists to document the extent of the problem and propose a cleanup. “This work was completed last March, and there has been no word from any level of government as to whether or not any remediation efforts will be initiated,” said EcoSuperior’s executive director, Ellen Mortfield.