It’s our bloomin’ problem


When the water turns green in Lake Erie, we’re all to blame, not just farmers.

Here in Chatham-Kent, the farmers seem to be leading the way in terms of efforts to reduce phosphorous winding up in our watershed.

There are five test sites for phosphorous filtration systems in place at the edge of various fields in Chatham-Kent, as researchers hope to see significant reduction in the flow of phosphorous off the fields and into municipal drains, our streams and rivers, and ultimately the Great Lakes.

Mayor Randy Hope made an interesting point recently when he used the term “myth” to describe the common-held belief that agricultural operations are to blame for the algae blooms.

He added that municipalities, with faulty sewer systems, and rural homeowners, with the penchant for heaping fertilizer on their lawns, might be the bigger culprits.

Perhaps they are unwitting co-conspirators, but agricultural practices here and south of the border for decades contributed to phosphorous buildup on agricultural land, in municipal drains, streams and rivers leading into the Great Lakes.

Tiled fields quickly send excess water following a heavy rain right into nearby waterways, sending nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen, with it.

Think of all how much farmland in the heartland of the U.S. ultimately drains into the Great Lakes. That includes dairy-heavy Wisconsin, and agriculture-rich Indiana.

Here in Ontario the vast majority of our province’s agricultural land also drains into the world’s largest freshwater system.

Lake Erie, plagued by algae blooms on and off since the 1970s, is the shallowest of the Great Lakes. The western end of the lake is particularly shallow, and thus the water is warmer.

It’s also home to the mouth of the Maumee River, which flows out of Indiana, through Ohio and into Lake Erie via Toledo.

This year, that’s where U.S. scientists see the algae blooms already forming.

Some farmers here are experimenting with phosphorous reduction filtration. If it’s successful, the big hurdle will be convincing widespread use of the systems, here and in the U.S., where the president seems at best indifferent to the environment.

Still, it’s a starting point, one in which local farmers should be proud to be involved.


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