Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day: The late Great Lakes?

As Kathy/Cold Climate Gardening is fond of saying, I live by the shores of an inland sea. To be honest, I’d rather live by the shores of a real sea; I love the ocean. But Lake Erie and Lake Ontario are very beautiful bodies of water. They have gorgeous beaches, and the sight of sailboats on Lake Erie is something that never tires. The proximity to the lakes softens the winter temps even as it brings more snow. It also keeps things cooler in the summer. Orchards and vineyards around Lake Ontario benefit as well.

But you often can’t use the gorgeous beaches thanks to polluted run-off. Infestation of alien species threatens many of the fish, and contaminated sediments make eating many of the fish that remain in advisable. In some ways, the lakes are better than they were, but there are still plenty of problems. I’ve always known about them, but this summer they became a bit more personal.

It was hot. I had never in my life visited any Lake Erie beaches on the American side, but this summer we did. We went to three—all were very pretty in their different ways. I particularly like the vintage concession buildings a couple had. Only one was open for swimming the day we went—the other were closed because of lifeguard shortages and heavy currents. But a report on beach pollution throughout the U.S. rates a few Buffalo-area beaches as persistently failing to meet healthy standards, particularly during times of heavy rainfall. This is when storm water overloads water treatment plants. The report was widely publicized.

There is more EPA money on the way as a result of this and other publicity. I know that beach health is just one part of the Great Lakes picture, but wouldn’t it be great if they were always clean and open all summer long?

Here are two useful sites:

Great Lakes Information Network

EPA Great Lakes site


Erin @ The Impatient Gardener said...

The Great Lakes are indeed in serious danger from all the things you mentioned and more. Perhaps the scariest thing is the perception that the water supply in the Great Lakes is limitless and we can feel free to give it away, pump it to communities whose water table does not drain to the Great Lakes basin, and worst of all, freely pump billions of gallons of untreated sewage in the lakes (I live near Milwaukee, which is one of the worst offenders). Not only do I live on Lake Michigan's shores, I spend almost all of my summer free time on its waters and, like many, many people here, my living is tied to its health.

Awareness of the problem needs to go far beyond those people who live on its shores or want to visit its beaches on vacation.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

It is scary and sad that these magnificent fresh water lakes are so polluted. I hope that the powers that be are working to clean them.

Rose said...

Living in the central part of Illinois, visiting the Great Lakes has always been a treat for me and much closer than the ocean. I hope that we will do everything we can to preserve these beautiful natural resources.

Barbarapc said...

I live a kilometer from the shore of Lake Ontario. I've got photos from the 1930s of my mum in a suit going for a swim - it's my hope that I'll see folks in the water again. On a positive note, the banning of pesticides for cosmetic use has made the lake much clearer and less smelly. Who knew that doing something so small would have such a big effect.

jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

Great post, Eliz! All I can tell you is to remember when Lake Erie was classified as dead, what, 35 years ago now? It's come back, but of course there's still miles to go, so to speak. And you're always welcome to come live on the shores of the Bay of Fundy...or as I've taken to calling it this autumn, the Bay of Endless Windy...