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Local News

Watch for Harmful Algal Blooms in MI Recreational Waters


Farah Siddiqi, Producer

Monday, July 17, 2023   

Michigan residents are being warned to be prepared for another season of harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy is advising people on what to do if they encounter the algae. One environmental group is convinced it’s being caused by thermal discharge from nuclear plants.

Jesse Deer in Water, community organizer for the watchdog group Citizens’ Resistance at Fermi Two, the nuclear plant in Monroe County, said the plant’s discharge is full of toxins but people rarely hear about it, because the data comes from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“The thermal discharge is the heat from the process of the cooling that’s left over in the water,” Deer in Water explained. “It comes out at temperatures well above the average, and damages the ecosystems and fish, and the heat from it helps harmful algal blooms dominate the waters there locally.”

The group is demanding more regulation and cleaner energy sources, saying nuclear power is neither “clean” nor “emission-free.”

State agencies sample lake water for harmful algal blooms, but recommend people use a “stick test” if they see something odd. If it can’t be picked up with a stick or paddle and looks like spilled green paint, it could be toxic, and should be reported right away to the Environmental Assistance Center at 800-662-9278.

Residents of Newport and Monroe County can check the state’s Harmful Algal Bloom Map to help them avoid toxic waters. The state pointed out breathing in or swallowing water with algal blooms can cause a host of symptoms, from difficulty breathing, vomiting and diarrhea, to weakness or numbness, headaches or dizziness.

Graham Denton, a Monroe County resident and member of The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, said he’s always concerned for his family’s health when they are at the lake.

“We visit a website every time we go to the lake with our dog or our son now, and we’re checking the algae bloom,” Denton noted. “We live in the area that’s the western point of Lake Erie and so, we were shocked to see some of these articles come out and say, ‘Hey don’t let your dogs swim here, don’t let your kids swim here when it’s like that.’ That’s pretty shocking.”

Back in 2014, the algal blooms were so bad in the western basin of Lake Erie, they affected access to drinking water for residents of the area. 

Disclosure: Citizens’ Resistance at Fermi Two contributes to our fund for reporting on Environment, Environmental Justice, Native American Issues, and Nuclear Waste. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.