News

Did you know that the Great Lakes are the biggest freshwater source in the world? Lake Erie is the most productive for fishing of all the Great Lakes. Your support helps make our streams clean, clear and healthy so they can support this complex ecosystem. By donating to PCS, you help us reach our goals of restoring rivers that lead to Lake Erie beaches that promote fishable and swimmable conditions for generations.

Support PCS - Donate Now!

PCS News

We are very excited to share the 2015 Annual Report with you! Explore the Report online for now and we will have hard copies to distribute in the near future. It is also available for download in a PDF version. Thank you to all who contributed to our programs, events, and river cleanups in 2015! 

by Dr. Patrick Lawrence

As most people are aware, in the early morning hours of Saturday August 2nd, over 500,000 residents of the City of Toledo and surrounding communities awoke to the shocking news that their drinking water was contaminated and unsafe for consumption. For many the impacts that the annual blooms of green-blue algae in the western Lake Erie basin can have on their drinking supply came as a surprise. However, alarms over this potential disaster had been raised by many professionals and concerned citizens for over a decade.

 

Suddenly, the need to provide safe drinking water became a major issue, along with the need for many volunteers and efforts to secure bottled water and other sources of drinking water, and over the following two days provide and deliver that water to those in need. A major environmental and human health crisis was at hand.

Although the emergence of these blue-green algae blooms have occurred on Lake Erie for many years, over the last decade concerns were raised as the blooms increased in size, density in the water column and the length of time they remaining persistent in the western basin of Lake Erie during the late summer and early fall months. The breakdown of the algae at the surface can result in the release of a harmful toxin – Microcystin - into the lake water. Even at very, very small amounts (1 part per billion or the equivalent of one drop into a swimming pool), this toxin can cause serious impacts to human health if ingested.

In other locations around the United States and the world, similar cases of the growth of blue-green algae blooms and release of toxins have been observed and documented, including in Africa and China. These blooms are found naturally in the environment in ponds, lakes and rivers, but the situation has been a significant problem as human sources of nutrients, such as phosphorous and nitrates, coming from various land uses and activities has resulted in excess amounts of these nutrients into water bodies, “feeding” the growth of the green algae present.  The typical human sources can include runoff of water and sediment from agricultural farm fields, human and animal wastes, and from fertilizers applied on residential lawns. Fortunately, after two days of further analysis of additional samples, discussion among federal, state and local officials and experts, and increased treatment at the City of Toledo Water Treatment Plant, the drinking water supply was deemed again safe for use.

But many questions and concerns remain, with answers often limited or lacking. Of particular importance is how the community can move forward with the reassurances that these problems will not occur in the future and what steps can be taken to resolve the situation. Options that need to be discussed and considered include the need to improve, expand and modernize the City of Toledo water treatment infrastructure - at an estimated cost of up to $1 billion - and means by which to reduce the amount of nutrients entering into the western Lake Erie basin from the Maumee Rive and other sources.

 

In terms of land management within the 6,000 square mile watershed of the Maumee River that drains into the western Lake Erie, the options and solutions to address nutrient runoff are many. Examples include more extensive use of no-till farming and buffer strips to keep the soil and nutrients on the farm fields; improved oversight of animal waste storage and applications and the operations of CAFO (Concentrated Animal Farm Operations); establishing wetlands and other bio-retention features to hold and filter water and sediment; and employing best management practices for fertilizers by farmers and residential landowners. The opportunities are many, the methods and techniques are well known and studied. What is now needed is the public pressure and political will power to act.

 

Moving forward the citizens of Toledo, and many other impacted cities in Ohio and along the Great Lakes, will need to make some hard decisions to tackle this complex problem and continue to press elected officials and government agencies into meaningful actions that will have effective impacts on ensuring that for future safe drinking water can be provided for all.

 

Partners for Clean Streams Inc., including our board, staff, members and the many agencies, groups, and citizens who work with us, remain committed to participating and engaging in the needed public and political dialogue that will be required to see steps taken so as to keep our rivers, streams and lakes drinkable, fishable, boatable and swimmable for everyone in our communities. Please consider joining us in this important endeavor and help preserve and protect your water.

By Kris Patterson, Executive Director

I have personally been removing trash from our small corner of the Lake Erie watershed since college. Seventeen years later I am proud to lead the largest one-day river cleanup in Northwest Ohio, and perhaps even along the Lake Erie Coastline. Unfortunately, the disheartening side to that success is that we're still at it. This is one of those jobs that you hope to, someday, work yourself out of by "solving" the problem. I am happy on the rare occasion when we have groups come back from a cleanup and say they couldn't find much trash. While I know they wanted to make a bigger difference (and we appreciate the effort anyway), I also know it doesn't take much looking around to find that garbage downstream somewhere. So what do we do?

There's no easy answer. But we are trying, on a much bigger scale, to come up with strategies and actions to put into practice across the Great Lakes states.

I was recently invited by NOAA to attend a working group that focused on strategies for tackling marine debris in the Great Lakes. Marine debris is a common issue around the world in salt water environments and there are many educational initiative, policies, and programs along our salt water coasts, but working on those in the Great Lakes poses unique challenges. One of the unique aspects of the Great Lakes is that we drink the water from the lakes, unlike most salt water environments. So the group was keenly aware of how emerging issues, such as micro-plastics, needed to be part of the conversation. As is common in action planning like this, many of our actions were to gather more information to inform the "real" goal - changing behaviors to minimize marine debris from entering the environment in the first place.

 As a fundamental strategy, part of our effort will be in updating or modifying messages, images, and materials that help people understand impacts of debris in our Great Lakes context and sharing those common messages around the Great Lakes with its' citizens. We don't have the same wildlife as saltwater coasts so the existing entanglement pictures showing sea turtles and dolphins just don't resonate with people here. So we need new materials. We talked about illegal dumping versus accidental fly-away trash and the shift to automated pick up (and less large item pick up) but we need more data to see trends or causal relationships. Perhaps packaging from manufacturers and shifts to more biodegradable or minimal packaging should be emphasized. But that's a major undertaking, with many factors involved. Yet industry representatives sat at the table with river stewards and champions and recognized that the concern about marine debris brings together a common resolve to change what we can change.

The working group is an interesting mix of government, university, industry, researchers, practitioners, and recreationists. It will take effort from all these stakeholders and from the everyday citizen too, to reverse course on marine debris. Meanwhile, PCS is working to educate people, and behaviors, through prevention as well. Our regional Storm Drain Marking program informs community members to keep trash, and other chemicals and waste, out of the storm drains because that is a direct path for it to reach a river. And our volunteers pulling trash out of the rivers before (hopefully) it gets to a drinking water intake see first-hand that everything and anything man-made seems to end up in our rivers. We are also working with much larger efforts to track, monitor, and inform strategies and policies for debris, such as through Ocean Conservancy and NOAA's Marine Debris program. In fact, NOAA's Marine Debris program, through the National Marine Sanctuaries Foundation, is providing a small grant towards supplies for our stream cleanups and developing educational, prevention materials.

So while we don't have all the answers yet, we know that what we can all take is to take small actions now. Take reusable bags to the grocery store; grab that fly-away paper before it ends up in the river; clear the storm drains of gunk as spring melts are upon us; pick up trash as you walk the dog around the block or through a local park; secure your trash in its bins and take it to the curb only shortly before pick up. Oh, and of course, you can always donate to PCS so we can continue the programs we are working on today and every day.

 

PartnersforCleanStreamsOn October 20th, Partners for Clean Streams was awarded a $2,500 grant from Dominion and Western Reserve Land Conservancy to expand our Fishing Line Recycling Bin program. This was a part of more than $35,000 given to Ohio watershed organizations in support of their local water quality improvement efforts. PCS is one of 16 different groups from all across Ohio who received awards. For more information, please read the press release

Here in Toledo, we love our waterways but sometimes we truly realize how important they are to us. Partners for Clean Streams is working with many other agencies and organizations in the area with far more expertise and experience in regards to Harmful Algal Blooms and their impacts. We look toward those agencies and organizations to take the lead on this complex and important issue. 


And we welcome being part of this important conversation as we, as a community, move forward to discuss how to form long-lasting solutions. PCS has worked tirelessly on educating the community on caring for our water resources so we can all have the quality of water that is essential to the region, where we live and work and play.  We are also working to create habitat that is resilient and helps stops the nutrients from reaching Lake Erie. We all play an important role in ensure high quality of water through our everyday actions. PCS is always looking for more partners to work with in finding solutions and taking actions.

 

Join us as a partner and DONATE NOW or join one of our volunteer activities to make a difference today. To do your part in protecting our water, check out these simple tips from our Give Water a Hand Campaign for things you can do every day at home or at your business.

 

For quality information about Harmful Algal Blooms and their far reaching impacts, here are some articles and resources that explain the issue.

 

As more information becomes available, we will disperse that information. You can see our recent posts and join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter (using @PCSMaumee, #watercrisis, #emptyglasscity, #fullglasscity).

We look forward to more dynamic and action-based work in the future with our partners to promote clean, clear and safe water for years to come.

 

Camp Miakonda Restoration (Toledo News Now, interview with Boy Scouts and PCS)

PCS News

Partners for Clean Streams Inc. is striving for abundant open space and a high quality natural environment; adequate floodwater storage capacities and flourishing wildlife; stakeholders who take local ownership in their resources; and rivers, streams and lakes that are clean, clear and safe