Editorial: All area residents have
a role in protecting lake
The News Messenger (OH)
Published December 21st, 2004
Last week's Associated Press report on research into the
human impact on Lake Erie should provide a message to
all of us.
The fact is that even the small things that we do can
have an impact on what is our greatest natural treasure.
Ohio State University scientists plan to look at how
the lake affects people by examining issues such as drinking
water and the quality of life of the residents along its
shores and, more importantly, how people affect the lake.
"We're loving it to death," said OSU biologist
David Culver, who is involved in the research with 15
colleagues. "What happens when you double erosion
flowing into the lake or a new chemical enters the mix?
How do lake organisms react to foreign species?
"What if boating or swimming use is doubled? Should
you build a nuclear power plant or a coal-fired plant?
"We want to get at the right questions about the
interactions between humans and natural systems."
Experts say that even our own daily activities can affect
the lake, said Tim Loftus, director of the Water Quality
Laboratory at Heidelberg College in Seneca County.
Scientists and environmentalists claim that Lake Erie
is affected when homeowners overapply lawn chemicals,
spill gasoline or dump paint or household chemicals. Industrial,
home and farm pollution cause beach closings and fishing
and drinking water advisories.
Culver said something as innocuous as a sale on farm
fertilizer can have an effect.
A few years ago, he said, fertilizer manufacturers began
offering winter discounts. Farmers responded by buying
fertilizer early and spreading it on fields.
"This phosphorus fertilizer was sitting on top of
the soil and spring rains come and there could be a lot
of runoff," he said.
By the 1930s, pollution had wiped out whitefish and lake
herring in Erie.
Two decades later, sewage and farm and industrial chemicals
killed off the lake's mayfly population, which emerged
each spring and provided food for fish and birds.
Since the 1970s, there have been steady declines in many
toxic and persistent chemicals in the Great Lakes. That,
in turn, has meant lower levels of contaminants, including
lead, found in humans.
While PCBs and other hazardous chemicals are banned or
severely restricted, new classes of chemicals are showing
up in the food chain.
On top of the impact of invasive species that has been
well documented in recent years, the human impact poses
real problems for the lake, its surrounding wetlands and
the animals and birds who use it as habitat.
We have encouraged public officials to be determined
to protect the lake, which is so important for our quality
of life, our health and our economic well-being.
But, as individuals, we can also make a difference.
It all means that we must think about our actions and
not discount the impact that even a small amount of pollution
After all, it is part of a much larger picture.