Support Local Journalism. Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Lake Erie 'Dead Zones' are Impacting Northeast Ohio Drinking Water Every Summer

Posted By on Wed, Dec 11, 2019 at 12:58 PM

ERIC SANDY, SCENE
  • Eric Sandy, Scene
A report by Tony Briscoe in the Chicago Tribune last month explained how "dead zones" in Lake Erie are leading to an increase in manganese levels in the local water supply. These dead zones, largely the result of dying algae from expansive algae blooms, are forcing Cleveland's Water Department to experiment with treatment in real time to make water safe enough for drinking and clean enough to do laundry. 

The issue was covered in 2018 by Plain Dealer environmental reporter James McCarty, who retired early this year. But as climate change worsens, the dead zones will continue to expand. 



Dead Zones are low-oxygen areas formed when algae and other bacteria die, fall to the lake bottom, and rot. The amount of this bacteria and the corresponding size and scale of the dead zones have substantially increased with the increase in agricultural runoff and urban wastewater.

The dead zones persist throughout the warm weather months. Thanks to climate change, "warm weather months" are starting earlier and ending later than in years past, and occasional brown water has become expected in some communities near the lake.

The expansion of the dead zones affects the drinking water for the 1.4 million people serviced by the Cleveland Water Department. Manganese and other heavy metals are released into the water when the low-oxygen areas interact with the lake bed.

Manganese, the Tribune story reports, not only causes water discoloration, (and has led to warnings about laundry stains), "but also has been linked to permanent neurological issues."

The story describes new monitoring efforts conducted by both the Cleveland Water Department and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), which have led to more accurate real-time alerts about increased manganese levels in the water supply.

On eight separate occasions in 2019, lakefront communities have been advised about hazardous water conditions. In one instance, on Aug. 26, 21 communities were alerted.

The story warns that larger algae blooms and longer summers will continue to exacerbate the problem, and that even with more research and better forecasting systems, residents remain concerned.

Sign up for Scene's weekly newsletters to get the latest on Cleveland news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.

Tags: , , , , ,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at news@clevescene.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club


Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.


Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.


Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

December 1, 2021

View more issues

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Calendar

© 2021 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 505-8199
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.


Website powered by Foundation