Lake Erie is blue because of the suspended particles in it. The blue color is caused by the reflection of sunlight that bounces off these particles. The most common suspended particles in Lake Erie are zooplankton, phytoplankton, silt and clay, which can all lend a bluish-green color to the lake.
The clarity of the water also plays a role as it interacts with light, allowing a clearer blue water which is free of silt, clay and other suspended particles. Additionally, due to Lake Erie’s large size, the “glimmer effect” comes into play; the combination of a flat surface, airborne particles, and sunlight reflecting off the water can cause the blue color to become much brighter and more vibrant.
What is the toxic bloom in Lake Erie?
The toxic bloom in Lake Erie is an accumulation of a potentially harmful form of bacteria in the lake that can form blooms of blue-green algae. These blooms have become more frequent and are usually found in surface waters during the summer months.
The main cause of the toxic bloom is excessive nutrients such as phosphorus, mainly from human activities such as agricultural runoff, urban and industrial waste and other sources. When excessive nutrient levels are available, the blue-green algae that form the toxic bloom can reproduce rapidly and form dense patches of floating mats and scums on the surface of the lake.
When this occurs, the resultant toxins can be harmful to both people and aquatic life.
Effects of the toxic bloom can include decreased water quality, beach closures, dead and dying aquatic life, and contamination of drinking water supplies. Humans can be exposed to the toxins in the water through direct contact, inhalation, and ingestion and can experience allergic reactions, rashes, and other respiratory problems.
Many cities and towns in the Great Lakes region have implemented strategies to reduce the nutrient runoff into Lake Erie and thus reduce the frequency of toxic blooms. These strategies include creating buffer strips, wetland restoration, and using phosphorus-free fertilizers.
Why can’t you swim in Lake Erie?
Swimming in Lake Erie is not advised due to health concerns. Lake Erie is one of the most polluted of the Great Lakes and has high levels of bacteria, phosphorus, and other pollutants. The bacteria in Lake Erie can cause gastrointestinal illnesses, skin irritation, and rashes.
Additionally, the water has very strong currents, which can make swimming risky or even deadly. The lake also has a high number of shipwrecks and submerging objects, creating hazards for swimmers. Pollution in the lake has created Dead Zones where aquatic life is unable to survive, which makes the lake unsuitable for swimming.
Because of the health risks, strong currents, and hazardous objects in Lake Erie, it is not advised to swim in the lake.
Is Lake Erie heavily polluted?
Yes, Lake Erie is heavily polluted. Pollution can stem from various sources, including industrialized runoff, excess nutrients, poorly treated wastewater, and air pollution that travels to the lake. Unfortunately, all these sources contribute to excessive algal blooms and degraded water quality in Lake Erie.
These algal blooms are the result of the excessive concentrations of phosphorus and nitrogen in the lake, which arise from human activities and runoff, and they can be toxic to fish and other aquatic life in the lake.
The visible effects of this pollution can sometimes be seen, as there have been instances of green and blue-green algae coating the surface of the lake. As a result of the pollutants, experts advise against drinking the water or eating any fish caught in Lake Erie.