Lake Erie: A Locals' Perspective
Growing up in the greater Cleveland area, I was both consciously and unconsciously inspired by my surroundings. Trips to the Edgewater lakefront, Huntington Beach, and other Lake Erie beach fronts during the summertime were eye-opening. Lake Erie has long been the victim of pollution due to improper environmental federal regulation (EPA, 2020). The biological richness of Lake Erie left it vulnerable to “cultural eutrophication” – the lake became so overdosed with nutrients that have been injected into it due to anthropogenic activity such as farming, sewage and storm water overflow, lawn fertilizer runoff, and more, that the resulting explosion of algae continuously suffocates other aquatic life (Egan, 2017). Sadly, warning signs line the beach entrances, warning locals not to spend more than twenty minutes in the water due to health hazards. All one needs to do is look and see the green-blue cyanobacteria blooms to know not to even step foot in the lake. As a Cleveland native, it saddens me that a once vibrant and healthy lake has reached this point due to past mismanagement and industrial greed.
Twelve million people rely on access to drinking water from Lake Erie, so its health and sanitation are of utmost importance (EPA, 2020). In 2014, Lake Erie experienced one of its worst breakouts of toxic algal blooms, which shut down access to drinking water for 400,000 people in the city of Toledo for three days and resulted in the deployment of the National Guard to bring in bottled water (Dybas, 2019). Unfortunately, drastic circumstances such as this have occurred because of failure to uphold the Clean Water Act; a law that was instituted to protect bodies of water such as Lake Erie from climate catastrophes such as in the case of 2014 (Egan, 2017).
There is hope yet for the once neglected Great Lake. In recent years, Lake Erie has been the subject of restoration work through collaborative, ecosystem based, cleanup efforts that have resulted in a cleaner, more accessible body of water that community members can be proud of (Erie Reader, 2019). One prime example is the Sustainable Cleveland organization that brings together community members of all different career paths to discuss and develop a thriving and resilient Cleveland region, helping to create a vibrant city with a flourishing natural environment that benefits all (Sustainable Cleveland, 2021). I, for one, am hopeful for what is to come for the future of Lake Erie - a beautiful blue lake along a lush green city.
Pictured below: Remnants of algal blooms alongside the Edgewater Marina
Lake Erie sunset at Edgewater Park, Cleveland, Ohio.