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Great Lakes Article:

Scientists study 'dead zone' in Lake Erie
CBC News

WINDSOR - Falling water levels and the introduction of alien species may be slowing efforts to clean up Lake Erie, scientists say.

Falling water levels, alien species slow efforts to revive lake
After many years and millions of dollars spent on cleanup efforts, Lake Erie was considered to be in a state of recovery. At one time, fish from the Detroit River were filled with PCBs and covered in tumours.

"I hear they say they're no good to eat but I don't see anything wrong with them," said Ben Sargiss as he cast his fishing line into the river.

FROM AUGUST 6, 2002 Scientists investigate toxin, mussel threats in Lake Erie

The fish are now considered safe enough to eat in small amounts, but scientists are wondering about "dead zones" in the deepest part of the lake.

Dead zones are oxygen-deprived areas where fish can't survive. University of Windsor biology Prof. Jan Ciborowski is leading the Third Biennial Conference of the Lake Erie Millennium Network, where scientists are discussing the dead zone.

Ciborowski said although the dead zone is centred in the middle of the lake, the area can move.

"If you poured some water into a jar of oil, it would form a bubble at the bottom," said Ciborowski. "If you tilted the jar it would roll back and forth. So where's the dead zone, where's that bubble? Sometimes it's over there, and every time the wind blows the location moves."

Research presented at the conference is helping scientists understand if dead zones are natural or caused by human activity. He said they are tracking elements such as a warming climate but it's too soon to tell.

FROM JAN. 4, 2002 Water levels in Great Lakes hit new low

Studies show warmer layers of water near the surface cut off the oxygen supply near the bottom of the lake. As water levels fall, the lake becomes warmer, creating the potential for a larger dead zone, scientists say.

Gail Krantzberg is with the International Joint Commission, which monitors the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between Canada and the United States.

Krantzberg said part of the problem may be the introduction of alien species like zebra mussels from ship ballast water.

"It is among the greatest threats to the health and integrity of the Great Lakes, and the push can come from the IJC but the muscle has to come from governments."

Krantzberg said while the cause of the dead zones remains a mystery, enough is known about other threats to the health of the Great Lakes that governments should take more aggressive action.

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