Lake Erie Waterkeeper

Check out I Volunteer Water Testing  to find out if the water in a stream near you has phosphorus that is contributing to Lake Erie’s algae problem.  This is the time of the year when phosphorus runoff from the land travels through ditches, creeks, rivers and bays to create harmful algal blooms with toxins in Lake Erie.  Do you know where your water from your yard goes?  The regional IYF Rotary and Lake Erie Waterkeeper ask you to check out a stream of interest.  Testing is easy – test the water when it is calm and there is no rain in two locations at least a mile apart and then test after a one half or more inch rainfall at the samle locations.  Test strips are used to indicate how much phosphate, nitrogen, nitrate, ammonia and pH are in the water at the test site.    You can also email for information.

Happy Earth Day.. Lake Erie Waterkeper tabled at the Toledo Zoo demonstrating water testing and providinginformation.  Thanks to the Huber family for manning the booth for Waterkeeper.  Also, Waterkkeper and Rotary had a Lake Erie forum that included water testing at Kolahari at the regional Rotary conference.  Thanks to the Rotarians who are stepping up to help water.

Thanks to all that attended the Lake Erie Water Conference March 20, 2015.  Here are some of the presentations.  Additional ones to be added soon.  Pam Taylor, ECCSM, Manure            Bill Stowe, Des Moines, Iowa

Lake Erie Waterkeeper meeting May 14 – location to be changed for this meeting at 7 pm.  Will post location soon.  Meetings are round table discussions about Lake Erie and are open to the public.

FlierLake Erie basin/watershed volunteer water testing sign up and information - Sign up for strea/nearshore testing for nutrient runoff into the water.

Senate Bill One signed into law.. The bill bans fertilizer and manure applciations on frozen ground, bans fertilizer applications if there is a 50% chance of an inch or more of rain within twenty four hours, and bans manure applications when there is a 50% chance of one-hald inch of rain withing twenty four hours.  There is also a ban on open lake dumping by 2020 with some allowances for Toledo.  And wastewater plants processing one million or more gallons of water per day will be required to reduce phosphorus in the discharge  to 1 ppm and will be required to test for total and dissolved phosphorus.  Federal legislation is generally addressing the drinking water issues and testing – some additonal for algae research.  Still no overall management for the at least 40% phosphgorus reductions needed and the amount of phosphorus by source – which other areas with algae have.

Lake Erie Waterkeeper leaders went to Washington DC at the end of February 2015 to advocate for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and to ask for accountability and management of the algae probelm for Lake Erie.

There was a lakewide plan for the recovery of Lake Erie  – Water Qaulity & Management Lake Erie Basin 1969 and Lake Erie Recovery Mathematical Model 1975 -  these were reports/plans that put Lake Erie on the path to recovery in the 1960′s and 1970′s.  Ohio Governor Rhodes was a leader in developing the plan along with State of Michigan officials. There were phosphorus reductions for each state, ongoing conferences with assessing changes etc. USEPA needs to work with the governors of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and New York to update these reports/plans to get Lake Erie Healthy again.  These reports site the importance of mass balance -knowing the amount of phosphorus coming into Lake Erie from Lake Huron and going out to Lake Ontario and the amount of nutrients and oxygen in the sediments and understanding the role of the Detroit River which is 90% of the water in Lake Erie.
Cleveland Waterkeeper Conference October 2014 presentations: Talking to Elected Officials, Jane Goodman, Storm Water- Dave White, Lake Erie – Sandy Bihn, Agriculture - Larry Antosch, Chesapeake - Emily Collins, Lake Erie Central Basin – Robert Heath

Full Army Corp Sediment/Dredging Report August 2014 This report reflects data collected from the sediments in both the dredged and undredged areas near the shipping channel in Maumee Bay and the far Western Basin of Lake Erie.  The tests show extremely high levels of phosphorus in the ‘top layer’ of the sediments.  See this chart that shows how much of the phosphorous is coming from sediments deposited in the lake over the years.  Internal Western Lake Erie load from Army Corps dredge report August 2014. Thanks to all who attended, helped and sponsored the Maumee Bay River Festival.  It was a great day on the river, the canoeing, kayaking, boat tours, fish encounters was terrific.

Want to test a stream, river or….?  Select the stream and public access points – with some waterkeeper coaching.  The stream will need to be tested in ‘normal’ flow conditions at two points at one mile apart.  After the ‘normal flow’ testing, the stream needs to be tested after a heavy rainfall – preferably one inch or more.  The Hach test strips will indicate levels of ammonia, nitrates, phosphorus, and pH. The strips are about 3.5″ long with a felt like material that turns color to indicate the level of what you are testing for.  To test the stream. you will place the water from the stream in a clean bucket and use the test strips, look at the results and then record the results including the location where you are testing.  If both locations read the same in the spring, summer and fall, then this indicates there is no spike from the runoff in that corridor.  If both locations spike after a heavy rain, then testing further upstream may help to locate the source of the spike.   The results will be sent to waterkeeper where they will be incorporated into a spread sheet that will be posted monthly on this web site. Sites will only be identified by location.   You can either cease to test after reporting or select another location and go through the same process. These tests are indicators and do not qualify for data submission to the agencies.  If there is a difference in the numbers, additional steps will be taken. Additional more detailed testing is available with other organizations..  For more information email


TOLEDO DO NOT DRINK THE WATER -TOXIN MICROCYSTIN                               The do not drink the water advisory has been lifter – Toledo states the water is safe to drink.  But looking at the shoreline of Maumee Bay this eve, August 7th with thick almost putty like algae water, one wonders if treatments trying to reduce/rid the water of microcystin will again not be enough.
Early in the morning on August 2nd, Toledo notified water users not to drink the water because levels of microcystin exceeded drinking water standards with 3.1ppb compared to the 1ppb World Health Organization.

Recommendations: Federal government needs to set a microcystin drinking water standard along with testing and treatment recommendations; there needs to be an annual report card that clearly states how much phosphorus going into the lake has been reduced and where in the previous year; there needs to be federal agency coordination and a go to Lake Erie federal representative who works with states, universities, local governments and other organizations.

The World Health Organization standard is 1.0 ppb. The State of Minnesota is .041 parts per billion for at risk populations. The federal government has not set standards, or testing and treatment protocol.  There are suggestions from some in the science community that the standard should be .5 parts per billion to protect public health.  Public drinking water supplies need microcystin federal guidance and standards.  Toledo and other public drinking water plants have been testing voluntarily for microcystin for years to protect public drinking water supplies.

As to the sources of Lake Erie algae that need to be reduced from nearshore and tributaries, they are: fertilizer, wastewater, manure and storm water and also failing septic systems, lawn fertilizer, etc.  There needs to be a Lake Erie Algae Reduction Plan with clearly defined goals, annual reductions, and annual report cards.  For more information go to the Lake Erie and microcystin links.

The first observed algae in 2014 was in the Luna Pier/North Cape area is spreading throughout western basin.  Lake Erie algae prediction 2014, another article Algae Article Star Beacon and Bihn Letter to Editor Toledo Blade

Growing numbers of sea lamprey are being observed in the western basin of Lake Erie.  Fishermen report finding one now and then over the last five years but this year have seen as many as they did in the last couple of years.  US Fish and Wildlife is looking into the increased and will be doing testing in the Portage River and other locations this seasons.  One hypothesis is that there is a growing sea lamprey population in the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair which are making their way down to Lake Erie.

Ballville Dam removal in Fremont is still a tug of war in the local community.

Here are the links for the 2014 Lake Erie conference presentations: Lake Erie Update, Total Maximum Daily Loads Chesapeake, Manure Frozen Ground,  Drinking Water Microcystin Ohio,  Drinking Water Toledo, Sediments Raisin, Sediments USGS, Dredging, Walleye,  Economics of Boating, Belle Aisle Aquarium.

A Balanced Diet for Lake Erie report by the International Joint Commission recommends a Total Maximum Daily Load, Bans on applications on frozen ground, drinking water standards for microcystin and more… Press Release

Ohio Senate Bill 150 was signed into law by Governor Kasich without any mention of manure.  The bill requires certification for fertilizer and also farmers are required to prepare volunteer nutrient management plans.  The bill does not have any requirements for manure…

The Ohio Phosphorus Task Force 2 Report 

Efforts are underway to reintroduce sturgeon to the Maumee River.  A joint effort with ODNR., U.S.FWS. Metroparks, the zoo, the Blade, retired fish biologist, charter captains and waterkeepers planning the reintriduction. Sturgeon are native and  can live over 100 ears and do not reproduce until 15-20 years old. The reintroduction is targeted for 2015.

Microcystin was in the water in intakes in western Lake Erie.  Toledo and other communities treated the algae to make the water safe for drinking.  The cost of treating algae for Toledo is $3-4 million.  See article.   Carroll Township serving about 2000 customers shut down September 5, 2013  because of the toxin microcystin which tested  at levels three times the recommendation of the World Health Organization.  For several articles click here.

In 2013 Lake Erie algae started in early July along the southern shores of Ontario and in the center of the Central Basin.  By late July the algae was blooming in Maumee Bay and the far western basin and along the Michigan shoreline.  Detroit sewage continues to flow to Lake Erie, click here for article.  The blooms spread east in August and are now in the area of the islands.  The algae on the shores of Maumee Bay State Park have been tested positive for toxins.   Also this year, there appears to be visible algae coming out of the Detroit River, especially on the Canadian side.  Excessive algae lowers water quality and decreases sport fish populations.  Ohio EPA has a good algae web site which includes beach advisories.  Click here for ecoli beach advisories. Click here for August algae picture.  Ohio Senate Bill 150 is in committee.  The bill was significantly weakened.  One amendment by Senator Randy Gardner to provide $1.5 million to find alternatives to open lake dumping is helpful to Lake Erie.

The   2013 study by the Carnegie Institute states storm intensity and agricultural practices are the main culprits for the algae problem in Lake Erie.   Monitoring in Lake Erie and at tributary outfalls is needed to determine if changing practices to reduce algae are working.  In particular, monitoring is needed in the Detroit River which has ‘three streams’.  Detroit’s center stream is the water coming from Lake Huron which supplies over 80% of the water to Lake Erie.  The ‘western stream’ on the Detroit side and ‘eastern stream’ on the Ontario side flow into Lake Erie with much higher phosphorous concentrations than the Huron ‘stream’.  There is little known about these phosphorous sources to Lake Erie.  Articles in the New York Times and elsewhere suggest that 2013 will be a bad algae year.

You can help reduce algae/phosphorus Lake Erie at your home by doing the attached.  You can also help reduce nutrients/algae in Lake Erie by writing your elected official.  A sample letter is attached.

One form of Asian Carp, grassy carp is reproducing in the Sandusky River according to O.D.N.R. and ohers.  Alsom information from Notre Dame suggest that Asian Carp are probably establishing in the western basin of Lake Eire.  The findings are similar to a  study by Purdue University which says that Asian Carp may have more of an opportunity to establish in the Great Lakes than once thought.

The Detroit Wastewater plant processes 1/2 of all the wastewater in the State of Michigan and is the single largest source of phosphorous to Lake Erie, and the single largest wastewater plant in the US located at the southwest tip of the Detroit River where it meets Lake Erie.  The Detroit Wastewater plant contributes over 5% of Lake Erie’s total phosphorus load and over 13% of Lake Erie’s dissolved reactive phosphorus.

The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement assigns the task of developing recommendations on a wide variety of threats to the Great Lakes to the International Joint Commission which has representation from the US and Canada.

Silver caprt eDNA was found in the Maumee River.  Recent studies suggest that the eDNA may or may nit indicate live carp.   In July test results from 2011 showed 4 Big Head Carp eDNA samples in Sandusky Bay and 2 Silver Carp eDNA samples in Maumee Bay – Michigan portion.   ODNR’s August 2012 results show 20 positive eDNA hits out of 150 samples in Sandusky Bay for silver carp.  There is no plan for getting rid of the carp if they establish in Lake Erie.   Click here for UTube how to identify Asian Carp.

Video on detecting algae

To learn about how Lake Erie was managed for its comeback, read Lake Erie Water Quality 1970-1982 A Management Assessment Report.  Issues addressed include: water quantity & water levels; page 9 discusses circulation and the impacts from the Detroit River; Nutrients, page 61 about the Maumee and Detroit Rivers …’even though the Maumee has more concentrated nutrients; the Detroit is more influential because of its volume’; 80% of the phosphorous discharged to Lake Erie falls out into the sediments. Heavy rains and winds in 2011 stirred up sediments in the lake aiding algae growth. Detroit Wastewater sewage sludge dumped into Lake Erie from 2009 through 2011 fueled algae.

Lake Erie has 872 mile shoreline stretches along the shores of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Ontario. The lake is the source of drinking water for 11 million people. Lake Erie is threatened by growing algae blooms(excess nutrients), invasives including Asian Carp, water withdrawals and water level changes(man made and nature) and climate change. Lake Erie Waterkeeper seeks to serve Lake Erie’s waters and its tributaries through education, advocacy, outreach and collaboration. Join our efforts for these great waters.