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Determining the Causes and Effects of Water Pollution in Lake Huron

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Bertie Barfield

Determining the Causes and Effects of Water Pollution in Lake Huron

The Great Lakes, Lake Erie, Michigan, Huron, Superior, and Ontario, are our largest freshwater system. Lake Huron, like the other Great Lakes contain many species of wildlife, and is in danger of being polluted. This pollution is harmful to fish, wildlife stocks, and to the humans of this region. At the University of Mississippi, Latham, A., Wright, E., & Tsang, A. [n.d.] produced a study that focused specifically on Pollution's Effects on the Great Lakes Ecosystem. Determining the causes and effects of water pollution in Lake Huron may facilitate new ideas and solutions for cleaning up our waterways’ and improving public health.

Although there are many causes of Lake Huron’s pollution, most fall under three categories: 1) Point-source pollution; 2) Nonpoint-source pollution; and 3) Air pollution. Point-source pollution refers to mercury, fecal matter, and sewage, from treatment plants or industrial facilities, being dumped into the Lake. Nonpoint-source pollution refers to runoff of polluted water from crops or lawns which contain contaminants. These contaminants may be oil, sand, salt from roadways, agricultural chemicals, and nutrients and toxic materials from urban or rural areas (The Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation, 1998-2012).

Additionally, air pollution is also a major concern. According to the Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation, “…the air quality of the Ontario Lake Huron Shoreline is among the worst in Southern Ontario.” “Other chemicals that can be deposited into Lake Huron via the atmosphere include pesticides, lead, mercury, PCBs, furans and dioxins.”

Figure 1: Pathways of Pollutants (The Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation)
This practice results in harmful bacteria which causes the decline of water quality and increase of bacteria growth (Shear, 2006 as cited by Pollution's Effects on the Great Lakes Ecosystem).
Regardless of the source, the water quality of Lake Huron can affect wildlife, as well as humans. Pollutants will inevitably find their way into the food chain and cause illness or death.
According to (Liu et al, 2006, as cited by Pollution's Effects on the Great Lakes Ecosystem) …”studies have shown that two kinds of bacteria (enterococcus and E. coli), which are indicators of human fecal matter, were present in 20% of the samples taken from Lake Michigan beaches in 2004. Whereas, Shear, 2006, as cited by Pollution's Effects on the Great Lakes Ecosystem) states that, “If ingested by humans, these bacteria could cause such illnesses as extreme as typhoid fever.” In Liu’s opinion as cited by (Pollution's Effects on the Great Lakes Ecosystem) “Infections, gastrointestinal diseases, and parasites are other possible risks from coming into contact with these bacteria….” As a result of fecal matter pollution that has been plaguing beaches on the Great Lakes, there was a 32% increase in the number of Great Lakes beach closings and advisories in 2003 (Liu et al 2006).
Figure 2: Concentration of Four Pollutants in Trout from Lake Huron

In addition to the adverse affects of Lake Huron water pollution on humans, there is also economic affects to be considered. For instance, the Obama administration has come up with a five-year plan to repair damaged Lakes from toxic contamination and declining wildlife habitats, and will costs $2.2 billion. President Obama pledged $5 billion to be spread out over a decade for this task. The first installment was approved by Congress last year in the amount of $475 million a year until 2014. Also included in this plan is “A strategy for monitoring the ecosystem’s health and holding federal agencies accountable for carrying out the plan” (New York Times 2010). Additionally, the … “plan sets out ecological goals and specific actions to be taken by 16 federal agencies working with state, local and tribal governments and private groups.” Furthermore, the article states that this plan along with enforcement of existing environmental rules would make the Great Lakes fish safe to eat, cleaner water for drinking and swimming, and boost plant and wildlife survival. Cleaning up the Great Lakes, (including Lake Huron) will also enhance tourism, outdoor recreation, shipping, and manufacturing for these regions (New York Times 2010).
Therefore, the effects of point-source pollution, non-point-source pollution, and air pollution are evident in Lake Huron’s ecosystem. This pollution inhibits fish and wildlife growth, wildlife stock, closing of beaches, and humans residing in these areas as well. Understanding the threat to humans, plants and animals, Congress has approved the President’s plan to clean-up and repair the damages to the Great Lakes, at a cost of $2.2 billion. Although, this will certainly have a great impact on the water quality of Lake Huron, other measures are also needed. Perhaps regulating the amount of pollutants released in the lake, would help to restore a natural balance to our waterways.

Latham, A., Wright, E., & Tsang, A. (n.d.) University of Michigan A Study of how pollution affects wildlife in the Great Lakes: Pollution's Effects on the Great Lakes Ecosystem
Shear, Harvey 2006. The Great Lakes , an Ecosystem Rehabilitated, but Still Under Threat. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 113: 199-225
The Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation: Nonpoint Source Pollution Copyright @ The Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation, 1998-2012. All Rights reserved. Retrieved from (
The New York Times: Federal Officials Unveil Blueprint for Great Lakes, By the Associated Press Published: February 21, 2010 Retrieved from: politics
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