Algae Bloom in Michigan’s Saginaw Bay Seen from Space

Saginaw Bay Algae Bloom

Originally published in 2012. It’s one of the most viewed and searched for on ThumbWind. With budget cuts announced for the EPA by the current administration it’s feared that the Great Lakes and Saginaw Bay will once again experience muck and fecal encrusted beaches.

Algal Blooms Affect Water Quality

Algae Bloom Seen From Space
Lake St Clair

The once pristine waters of Michigan’s Saginaw Bay now look like Lake Erie in the 1960’s. This observation was made by oceanographers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Images images made by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite on October 9, 2011.

Researchers were comparing algae blooms in Lake Erie and Saginaw Bay. “This is considered the worst bloom in decades,” says Richard Stumpf of NOAA. The green in Saginaw Bay is probably an algal bloom as well.” According to NASA, over the past decade Microcystis, a type of blue-green algae known to produce the toxin microcystin, has returned to the Great Lakes. No single cause has been pinpointed, but runoff from cities, fertilizers, septic tank overflow, zebra mussels, and livestock near water supplies are likely culprits.

The EPA has listed Saginaw Bay as an Area of Concern for over 30 years. Algae blooms, dead zones and invasive mussels are all contributors to the problem. Left unaddressed: the drinking water of 24 million Americans and 10 million Canadians is threatened.

Saginaw River a Significant Source of Nitrate Runoff

Despite $45 million in improvements, Bay City and Saginaw wastewater treatment overflow millions of gallons with partially treated waste water into Saginaw River which flows into the Bay. Laura Ogar, the Bay County Director of Environmental Affairs notes that reports show an average of six overflows a year. Published reports estimated that 90 million gallons of overflow occurred in 2011. Bacteria still present in the water without full treatment.

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