Cause, spread of Lake Michigan algae discussed
Thursday, October 16, 2003
Herald Times (Cleveland, Ohio) by Neil Rhines
The blob has invaded Hika Bay.
About 75 people gathered Wednesday at Lakeshore Technical College to learn more about the algae bloom that has gripped the shoreline of Lake Michigan this summer, between North Point in Sheboygan and Silver Creek Park in Manitowoc.
The meeting began as several people dumped buckets full of the algae into a larger container to give those in attendance an idea of what it smells like. As this was being done, a recently-produced home video showed Cleveland resident Bob Pragalz slogging through the goop (sometimes several feet deep) at Hika Bay, the apparent algae Ground Zero.
The growth extends outwards from the shore to about 50 feet into the water, and is often several feet deep. The algae has grown so thick that it often eliminated swimming on several area beaches this summer and, as it rotted, created a stench that often made it unbearable for those visiting or living along the lake.
“We’re upset about all the algae around Manitowoc,” said Russ Tooley, president of Centerville Concerned Citizens for Air, River and Environmental Solutions.
The goal of the meeting was to assemble those affected by the algae, the agencies that work to solve the problem and to hopefully develop a solution.
The Manitowoc County Soil and Water Conservation Department, working with the Manitowoc County Health Department, is actively pursuing the source of the algae blooms and other problems plaguing area beaches this year. But Tony Smith of Soil and Water said the solution cannot be reached overnight.
“It isn’t that easy,” Smith said.
Soil and Water, armed with $25,000 in state grant money, recently began conducting antibiotic resistance testing at area beaches to determine the source of the pollutants. They are awaiting results.
Experts can’t say at this time if the green goop sticking to area shorelines is related to the high E. coli levels found this summer, but Smith said the algae growth is definitely a phenomenon.
“I’ve never seen algae like that before,” Smith said.
Ron Schaper, citing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency findings, said he is convinced the problem is excess phosphorous due to agricultural practices.
According to EPA tests conducted in 2000, the Manitowoc River is the second-largest supplier of phosphorous into the Lake Michigan basin for a river of its size. Phosphorous is a chemical often found in materials used as fertilizer.
John Masterson, a water quality biologist with the Department of Natural Resources, said his agency is not certain as to the cause of the algae.
Manitowoc County Executive Dan Fischer said he is anxiously awaiting the results of the antibiotic resistance testing.
In the meantime, he and others will continue to work with the County Agricultural Task Force, a panel composed of many people concerned with agriculture and the environment.