Chemicals threaten Michigan Lake

27 December 2011

Barton Pond (Ann Arbor, Michigan) is in the news again:

The Michigan Fish Advisory warns people against eating large amounts of certain fish from bodies of water, including two in Washtenaw County.

The advisory states that due to polychlorinated biphenyl, more commonly called PCBs, contamination, women and children should not eat carp more than once a month from Barton Pond, where the city of Ann Arbor gets 85 percent of its drinking water.

The raw water from the pond is tested every year for PCBs, which is not required by the state. However, the state does require the finished water product be tested once a year.

PCBs were manufactured from 1929 until banned in 1979. The man-made organic chemicals were used in numerous products including electrical and hydraulic equipment and as plasticizers in paints, plastics and rubber products.

Laura Rubin, executive director of the Huron Rivershed Council, said PCBs are found in the sediment, or mud, at the bottom of the river and carp, which are bottom feeders, feed on those sediments.

Avian vacuolar myelinopathy (AVM) is a bird-killing toxin produced by an apparent combination of aquatic plants (typically Hydrilla verticillata) and blue-green algae – the precise cause and effect pathways are still unclear.  This naturally-occurring toxin is a neurological disease affecting bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), American coots (Fulica americana), waterfowl, and other birds in the southeastern United States. An outbreak, resulting in the death of an eagle, has been reported for Lake Thurmond (Augusta, Georgia), a location where outbreaks have been previously reported:

The Augusta Chronicle reported that scientists believe avian vacuolar myelinopathy has emerged again at Lake Thurmond in Lincoln County.

Ken Boyd of the Army Corps of Engineers told the newspaper said researchers have found high numbers of an unusual algae that’s linked to the toxin.

The disorder causes fatal lesions in the brains of infected birds but does not affect mammals.

In Washington State,

The city of Lake Stevens announced Wednesday that blue green algae blooms are in the county’s largest lake.

The blooms are potentially toxic to humans and pets if ingested. Signs have been posted at Lake Stevens and city officials distributed fliers to lakefront residents.

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