News and views, and history and humor, about the lake I love.

"I can hear my granddad's stories of the storms out on Lake Erie, where vessels and cargos and fortunes, and sailors' lives were lost." ~ James Taylor, Millworker

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Summer of Algae: Of hype and the hope

Rich Norgard photo
I hate to say I told you so, but...

If you've been following this blog you know I've been posting regular updates about the status of the algae bloom in Lake Erie. In particular, the Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Bulletins put out by NOAA have painted a consistently dim picture as this wandering sea of green slime wrapped itself around the western islands and kept going.

Now media of every stripe are shouting about the summer of algae -- how this is the worst that its ever been and how we'd better take some action to fix it before its too late. Of course, if you grew up in near Lake Erie during or since the 1960s you know that algae blooms in the lake are nothing new. You also know that this year has been different. The bloom has been far more persistent and widespread. And the experts say its potentially life threatening, to people, animals, you name it.

We know the primary causes of the algae blooms are municipal wastewater discharge and farm runoff. The question is, do we have the political will to take the steps necessary to solve the problem? The solutions will not be simple, or cheap. We won't be able to toss a magic tablet into the water and make the nasty stuff disappear. Nor can we wish it away.

To get some action in this political environment you have to frame it around jobs: If we don't fix this the hit to our tourism and fishing industries will be $xx.xx billion. As if the health of our children was not reason to do something. Those who want to eliminate the EPA use the twisted logic that it is costing jobs, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the lack of stewardship of our air and water will result in thousands of death and injuries, countless lost work days, cleanup costs, etc., etc. (does anyone really believe that the the EPA haters want to destroy it to save jobs, as opposed to, say, do the bidding of lobbyists?)

This may perhaps put to the ultimate test the notion, so prevalent today in this poisoned atmosphere of shrinking budgets and toxic politics, that we have to choose between jobs and the environment. You can't be on the sidelines on this one -- you have to make a choice. Are you on the side of those who believe we just can't afford to have clean air and water? Or do you believe that maybe, just maybe, by working together we can give ourselves the clean air and water we and our children deserve AND still have a functioning economy. You have to decide.

So if it takes some political posturing and pandering, if that results in some action, put me down. Because this yucky green stuff is hurting the lake.

On second thought, I don't mind saying I told you so when it comes to the health of Lake Erie, the environment, and all of us.

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