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An international conference in Windsor, Ontario, in February warned that cuts to the EPA budget proposed by the Trump administration will put Lake Erie at grave risk.


“If We Lose The EPA, We Lose Lake Erie” — Dr. Jeff Reutter

An international conference in Windsor, Ontario, in February warned that cuts to the EPA budget proposed by the Trump administration will put Lake Erie at grave risk.

The assault by the Trump maladministration on the EPA was of grave concern to a consortium of 125 scientists from the US and Canada who met at the University of Windsor in Ontario at the end of February. The conclave was part of the 8th Bi-National Meeting of the Lake Erie Millennium Network. Topics ranged from climate change, water quality, phosphorous, agricultural run-off, cynobacteria (blue-green algae), hypoxia (deficiency in oxygen), cladophora (green algae), winter ice cover, invasive species, sediment concentrations, and more.

EPA monitoring essential to Lake Erie healthOne of the speakers was Dr. Jeff Reutter, special adviser to the Ohio Sea Grant program. He has studied the Great Lakes since 1971. He told the conference he is very concerned about H.R. 861, a bill  introduced in the 115th Congress by Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz which calls for the termination of the Environmental Protection Agency. “If we lose the EPA, we lose Lake Erie,” Dr. Reutter said.

Lake Erie is the smallest of the Great Lakes by volume,  yet it has the highest number of people living along its shores of all the Great Lakes. Trump’s latest EPA budget proposal would eliminate funding for 52 programs, including those that monitor water quality of the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay. Now led by avowed EPA opponent Scott Pruitt, the EPA says the new budget will return control of those bodies of water to state and local agencies, who allegedly have all the money and resources they need to protect those waterways from harm.

The Canadian province of Ontario as well as the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan border Lake Erie. Nearly 12 million people get their drinking water from it. It became famous in 1969 when one of its tributaries, the Cuyahoga River, caught fire. The incident helped lead to the formation of the EPA and the Clean Water Act. Apparently America will become great again when its waterways are once again so polluted they burst into flames.

Over the past fifty years, there have been incredible improvements to the quality of Lake Erie, but the scientists at the conference admitted they were concerned about some of the old issues that led to Lake Erie’s pollution returning once again without constant research, monitoring, and regulations. Algae blooms and invasive species like Asian carp, and zebra mussels imperil fisheries in Lake Erie.

The lake also has suffered a 75% decline in the amount of ice covering its surface in the wintertime over the past 50 years. “It is significant and it parallels the declines in ice cover we’re seeing in the Arctic at present as well,” says Dr. Robert McKay, the Ryan professor of biology at Bowling Green State University. “We are seeing an increase in the frequency of very low ice on Lake Erie and the Great lakes in general, and lack of ice cover results in a major shift in the food web.” What most people don’t realize is that ice cover provides physical protection for fish and fish eggs, and protects shorelines from erosion.

Dr. Reutter told the scientists at the conference “Right now, excessive nutrient loading is causing three problems in Lake Erie: harmful algal blooms in the Western Basin; a dead zone — an area of zero oxygen — at the bottom of the central basin between Pelee point and Long Point; and then in the Eastern basin, excessive growths of cladophora.”

He blames agricultural run-off for the problems but he says phosphorous can come from other sources as well, “The algae don’t care where the phosphorous comes from, In 2014, the 400,000 people in the city of Toledo were also forced to stop drinking water from Lake Erie because of high phosphorous levels. Without regulations from agencies like the EPA and constant monitoring and vigilance from scientists, Lake Erie will suffer and could return to pollution levels of decades ago, Reutter warns.

Smaller government is a talismanic phrase much beloved by so-called conservatives. But what it really means is that big business doesn’t want to pay to clean up the environmental damage it causes. It would rather outsource that burden to those who do not have the luxury of political power. Turning America into an oligarchy will not make the nation great again. It will turn it into a festering cesspit while the wealthy are further rewarded for raping and pillaging the land in order to further enrich themselves.

The Trump crowd likes to style themselves as conservatives, but that is an insult to conservatism. In truth, they are knee-jerk reactionaries who are perfectly happy to risk America’s natural beauty and resources for the sake of a few more doubloons.

Source and image credit: Great Lakes Now

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. You can follow him on Twitter but not on any social media platforms run by evil overlords like Facebook.


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