News Feature | February 12, 2014

Michigan Water Plagued By Pathogens

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


The Great Lakes State has a surface water problem on its hands.

"Pathogen pollution in Michigan’s lakes and rivers – caused by human and animal waste draining into surface waters – is far more widespread than previously documented, according to new state data," Bridge Magazine, the publication of the Center for Michigan, recently reported.

The magazine cited a draft of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) 2014 impaired waters report. The report aims to "describes the status of water quality in Michigan and includes a list of water bodies that are not attaining Michigan Water Quality Standards and require the establishment of pollutant Total Maximum Daily Loads," according to the draft.

Here's how Kevin Goodwin, a DEQ senior aquatic biologist, accounted for the jump in pathogen pollution. “The changes we are seeing reflect better monitoring by the department, not a big change in water quality,” Goodwin said. “The more you look, the more you find.”

Bridge described several of the findings in the report.

"Pathogen pollution has become more widespread. A lingering problem – airborne mercury and PCBs from sources around the world raining down on surface waters and contaminating some species of fish – continues to haunt most of the state’s lakes and rivers, the report said. A statewide advisory urging people to limit consumption of certain fish, due to widespread mercury contamination, has been in place for years," the magazine article said.

WLNS broke down some of the most alarming discoveries. "In the past five years the number of harmful pathogens including E.Coli has doubled to more than 7000 miles of river being polluted in this area," the news report said.

The Red Cedar River and Grand River are among those contaminated by with bacteria, the news report said. "Exposure to the toxins could cause organ failure or even death," it noted.

Some believe more funding is needed to keep the water clean.

"James Clift, policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council, said the Legislature should use some of the current budget surplus to better protect lakes and rivers that are pillars of the state’s $17-billion tourism industry," Bridge reported.

Image credit: "Mackinac Bridge, Michigan 14," © 2009 Tatiana12, used under a Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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