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 region around Saginaw Bay will once again experience Great Lakes Algae, muck and fecal encrusted beaches.

Great Lakes Algae 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.

Related Stories on Saginaw Bay Pollution

Pollution for 30 Years on Saginaw Bay – The EPA and the State of Michigan designated the entire region as a potential environmental disaster. The deterioration and pollution were so bad that the label of “Area of Concern” was slapped on the Saginaw Bay in 1987 and has not been lifted for 30 years.

Algae Blooms in Lake Superior – In 2012, a two-day thunderstorm dumped between five and 10 inches of rain on Duluth and along many areas along the coast of Lake Superior. Already saturated with water from previous rainstorms, the area was primed for historic flooding. The immediate after-effect of the event came in the form of submerged soccer fields, broken pavement and mangled streams and creeks that are still being restored today.

Great Lakes Under Stronger EPA Rules – The EPA plans to largely enforce the regulation as planned. They argued that the decision only applies to the 13 states that requested the injunction. In a statement shortly after the ruling, the EPA was defiant and said that the injunction only applies in the 13 states. The injunction does not apply to Michigan. Michigan and Ohio suffer from seasonal algae blooms in Saginaw Bay and Western Lake Erie due to sewage and farm run-off.

When the Flint Water Crisis went Global;What I Learned – 1000’s of individuals from all over the United States converged into Flint Michigan to donate their time and skills to alleviate the disaster of lead contamination with the Flint water system. Here are a couple of things to know that may help you hit the ground running during a major disaster.

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