IN DEPTH | What's going on with ballast water and invasive species in Lake Erie?

What's going on with invasive species in Lake Erie?

This holiday weekend, no doubt so many of you are out taking advantage of one of our greatest jewels - Lake Erie.

This is an opportunity to talk about a major issue facing the Great Lakes, including Lake Erie.

Last year, a new species of zooplankton popped up in Lake Erie.

If you follow what's going on in our great lake, you know invasive species have been a problem.

Zebra mussels and round gobies, for example, we've known about for years.

Our lake has seen its fair share of issues, invasive species are a significant part of that.

A look from the air showed a green looking lake, because the western part of Lake Erie had an algae issue.

The algae had grown so aggressively, you couldn't drink the water in some places.

The algae problem isn’t the only issue we’ve seen in Lake Erie.

Invasive species like zebra mussels and round gobies hitched a ride on ships, through what's called ballast water and found their way into the Great Lakes.

The problem is, once they're here they out-compete native species and can even destroy their habitat.

Plus, they're expensive to get rid, costing millions a year for Ohioans.

The ballast water is important for ships, however.

It’s water pumped into a vessel's holding tanks and it’s one of the things that helps stabilize the ship.

According to NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 200 million metric tons of ballast water are discharged into US waters ever year.

About 30 percent comes from elsewhere and invasive species can ride in with all that water, which adds up to millions of tons.

The issue may be more salient than ever right now because President Trump wants to cut the EPA budget by 31 percent.

The great lakes restoration initiative would be decimated, we're talking a 97 percent reduction in the program, leaving only 3 percent of the budget remaining.

In the spring, a new bill passed out of committee in the US Senate, that could roll back rules to protect the Great Lakes.

Proponents say the bill will give shipyards greater predictability, stabilizing the work forces.

They think this is a way to also fix what they believe is broken regulation for commercial vessels.

© 2017 WKYC-TV


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