Technologies and nature

A few days ago, 500,000 people were left without water in Toledo, Ohio and surrounding areas. People in the area were unable to drink the water or bathe in it, which makes me happy to be in Columbus right now. Since boiling the water made the bacteria worse, stores quickly sold out of bottled water. Since I am from the Toledo, Ohio area, I thought it seemed fitting to do a post about the water crisis this past weekend.

Photo of the algae blooms on Lake Erie

Photo of the algae blooms on Lake Erie

A toxic poison created by the algae blooms from Lake Erie has contaminated the water in Toledo. Algal blooms indicate an imbalanced ecosystem in the lake. This imbalance is believed to be from agricultural pollutions put into the lake. Phosphorous runoffs from fertilizer on nearby farms are being deposited into the lake, creating toxins in the water.

Lake Erie has been in trouble for a while but this water situation just confirms it. The algae from the phosphorous runoffs are covering the lake and slowly ruining it. Not only is this coming from fertilizers, but also it is coming from cattle feedlots and leaking septic tanks and systems. This problem in Lake Erie is said to be an increasing problem in all of the United States. Poisonous algae are found in polluted inland lakes in states around Minnesota, Nebraska, California, and Massachusetts. A similar situation to that in Toledo happened in Ohio last September.

The phosphorous is feeding a toxic and poisonous type of algae called microcystin. If ingested, this algae causes vomiting, diarrhea, and liver functioning problems. This alga also kills dogs and other small animals if they drink the contaminated water. A small bloom of toxic algae happened to form directly over Toledo’s water-intake pipe for Lake Erie, which happens to be miles offshore. Besides damaging the water, the algae harms fishing trade and vacation businesses.

To me this is an example of how humans have self-created an issue that they are not having to face. With technological advances, we are able to take in water and treat the water for pure drinking. It also made me think of our conversation in class the other day about if humans are destined to ruin nature. Not only are we harming our own water intake and our own health, we are contaminating the water of the animals and plants around us.

The Federal Clean Water Act was meant to limit pollution from single, identifiable points such as companies discharge and sewer pipes, but the phosphorus carried into bodies of water like Lake Erie do not have a single point of entry and instead is spread over many miles. Addressing these large, unidentifiable points is hard and the national government has decided to leave it up to the states to act. In many cases, the states have chosen not to act.
Congress has allotted $1.6 billion for a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has gone to create wetlands and teach farmers ways to reduce fertilizer use and runoff. Wetlands catch the phosphorous as the water travels through, making the water safer and cleaner when it reaches the lake.

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