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It’s nearly guaranteed that if you put a lot of people in one place for a while, it’s certain that they will leave behind trash. It’s not necessarily intentional but it’s not inevitable, either. Lake Michigan is a water source for the people living near its shores, so what are the pollution problems in Lake Michigan and what is the major pollutant we should be aware of?



Raw sewage has to go somewhere. In some cases, it goes into Lake Michigan. It has been like so for years now and billions of gallons of raw sewage have been dumped, causing changes in the lake’s ecosystem. The billions of gallons may look small compared to the quadrillion gallons of water the lake has, but even comparatively small problems can become a problem when left unattended. One of the main effects it has on the lake is the high amounts of nitrogen and organic materials that cause a big bloom of algae and other small plant and animal life.


  • Chemical Contaminants

Factories have dumped their own waste products in the lake, sometimes intentional and illegal, sometimes accidentally like spills from transport ships or breaches from nearby chemical waste silos. Chemicals like Chromium and Mercury are present in the water, poisoning the aquatic life. The water treatment plants are capable of removing these chemicals before they are sent back to the people who need them, but the lake suffers a blow.


  • Plastic and All other Non-Biodegradable Trash

It’s likely that you’ve seen pictures of seafaring animals caught in six-pack rings or dead birds whose guts are filled with metal from ring-pull cans and a bunch of plastic bits. There are more examples and those apply to the lake as well. It’s not uncommon to see tin cans on the shallow lake floor, or pits of plastic floating along the center of the lake. One of the more concerning issues they have with plastic pollutants is the newly discovered presence of nearly microscopic, fine plastic fibers in the lake. Like asbestos fibers, it can get stuck into a marine animal’s lungs and gills, causing slow but sure death.

Among these three examples, which one is the major problem in Lake Michigan? One could easily say all of them are, since stopping them could lead to significant improvements the lake and the creatures in it, including the people around it, too.

The answer, however, is the plastic pollutants. Raw sewage can adjust the ecology, causing blooms of life that tip the balance, but once stopped, can naturally recover. Chemical spills are downright nasty but can be isolated and eventually treated, even naturally in some cases.

However, plastic stays behind. Lake cleaning is hard enough and the sea and its inhabitants cannot quickly deal with these non-biodegradable wastes. It’s also harder to control compared to chemical transports and dumping as it happens in very small scales, everywhere.

This is why helping to protect and preserve the environment doesn’t have to be big. It could be as simple as throwing your trash in proper places and picking up after yourself. Like the plastic problem in Lake Michigan, the solution can be very small scale, everywhere.



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