State of the Great Lakes and Saginaw Bay

For June 23, 2017

1 – A new report from the U.S. and Canada accesses the condition of the Great Lakes as “fair and unchanging.”

In other words, progress to restore and protect the lakes has been made, including the reduction of toxic chemicals. But there are challenges with issues such as invasive species and nutrients. Also, the ecosystem is large and complex and it can take years to respond to restoration activities and policy changes.

For Lake Huron, the report says chemical pollutants have declined significantly since the 1970s, but there are still fish and wildlife consumption advisories to protect human health. Most nearshore waters are high-quality, but areas including Saginaw Bay experience periodic harmful or nuisance algal blooms.

To read the full report, see

beach saginaw bay recreation state park

Saginaw Bay at the Bay City State Recreation Area, Bangor Township, Michigan

2 – Registration is now open for the State of the Bay 2017 Conference to be held Wednesday, Sept. 27 in Bay City.

The one-day conference is a chance to learn about activities related to the restoration, conservation and protection of Saginaw Bay. In addition, there will be presentations on what communities around the bay and throughout the watershed are doing to encourage public access, economic development, environmental education and watershed management.

The latest agenda includes a keynote on “Water Quality in Saginaw Bay and Lake Erie” by Dr. Jeff Reutter from Ohio Sea Grant.

The Sept. 27 conference is sponsored by the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network and its partners.

Go to to register for the event and review a preliminary agenda.

– Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9:30 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR. Follow @jeffkart on Twitter #MrGreatLakes



Native Plants from Prison, and Drugs in our Drinking Water

photo syringe drugs great lakes

Photo by Andres Rueda

As heard Nov. 30, 2012, on Delta Q-90.1 FM, NPR (audio, at 7:00) …
1. Inmates are helping growing native plants for a national wildlife refuge.

Inmates from the Saginaw Correctional Facility in Freeland are helping conserve wildlife habitat at Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge in Saginaw County by growing native prairie grass and wildflowers from seed.

The program is modeled after one from Minnesota; that prison has since closed.

The local inmates sow seeds collected from the Saginaw County refuge and tend plants once they’ve germinated.

When the plants are mature, they are trucked to the refuge for transplanting on former cropland.

Last year, 60,000 plants were transplanted.

Freeland prison officials hope to see the program spread to other areas of Michigan, and other states.

This is the program’s third year. Among the species planted this year were swamp milkweed, spotted Joe-Pye weed, common boneset, and wild bergamot. Native plants are good because they provide habitat for birds, attract pollinating insects, and help keep out invasive species.

Funding for the program has been provided by grant from Ducks Unlimited, and the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network.

Recently, 35,000 plants were delivered to the refuge with a market value of $175,000.

2. There’s drugs in our drinking water. And treatment plants are having a tough time dealing with it.

According to reports from Great Lakes Echo and the Alliance for the Great Lakes (document), traces of pharmaceuticals, everyday chemicals, and personal care products in our drinking water are an emerging concern.

Treatment plants can use membrane technology to remove some pharmaceuticals from wastewater. But, they can’t catch all of what’s contributed by humans and animals.

A total of 35 treatment plants in the Great Lakes use membrane technology, including 13 plants on Lake Huron.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is aware of the issue, and officials say various federal research projects are ongoing about pharmaceuticals in water.

The DEQ says pharmaceuticals have been detected in groundwater, lakes and streams in Michigan. The drugs can harm aquatic life. And, as concentrations in our water increase, the presence of these drugs may lead to human health damages.

The federal government doesn’t currently have any requirements about pharmaceuticals in drinking water, but standards are reviewed periodically.

( See also – “Great Lakes Syringes” )

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