By Sean Deters
Entirely East Lansing
Experts, professors and directors of environmental sciences gathered at the Kellogg Conference Center to discuss the growing danger of algae in the Great Lakes>.
Jan Stevenson, who works in the department of zoology at Michigan State, said phosphorous is causing massive algae build-up at the bottom of the lakes and harming people and wildlife.
“The toxic algae is polluting drinking water and fish are being killed at a rapid rate,” said Stevenson
Cloé Garnache, assistant professor of agriculture at Michigan State, supported Stevenson’s research.
“Contact with visible surface scum along beaches can be dangerous. The current phosphorous levels in the Great Lakes is reducing the market value of beachfront houses. We need to find an optimal level to keep farmers in business but our lakes, beaches and drinking water safe as well,” said Garnache.
Garnache suggested eliminating fall and winter application of fertilizers and placing a tax on phosphorus as policies to reach ideal levels.
James Cliff, policy director of the Michigan Environmental Council, said creating effective policy will have to be a binational effort to achieve success.
“Controlling the phosphorous by means of policy is a difficult task since we don’t know every location that it is coming from,” said Cliff.
“Even the best management practices may not be enough. I tend to lean toward vegetated buffer strips to prevent phosphorous runoff because it has been proven to work,” he said.
Marilyn Thelen, Michigan State Extension Agriculture Systems educator, warned that not addressing the issue in the Great Lakes could impact residents of Lansing.
“If we can’t figure out how to control the phosphorous levels in the Great Lakes, we could potentially make mistakes with our water systems which would result in similar outcomes like unsafe drinking water,” said Thelen.