Some of my fondest childhood memories were made on the West coast of Michigan during the summertime. Lake Michigan was the place to be on any stifling hot summer day because it provided a beautiful beach and a refreshing lake to splash into. These are memories I continue to make today, and every summer I make it a priority to road trip to Lake Michigan to take a dip in one of the largest fresh water sources in the world. But this summer I asked myself, just how fresh is the water?
The answer? Not as fresh as you think. Each year, an estimated 24 billion gallons of sewage are dumped into the lakes. This untreated sewage has the potential to pose some serious health threats along with irreversible ecological and environmental damage.
How does this affect you and I? If conditions become worse and failing infrastructure continues to allow the overflow of sewage, the next time you want to go swimming in the Great Lakes, you might risk contracting a skin rash, stomach bug, or an infection. Untreated sewage carries pathogens that expose us to harmful bacteria and viruses. When swimming in these unknowingly harmful waters, we expose our bodies to these dangers.
This constant pollution is also bad news for wildlife and fishermen. The aquatic life in the Great Lakes suffers the most because of the constant exposure to these chemicals. The increasing amount of toxins in the water lead to fish and wildlife developing tumors and carrying these toxins with them to the dinner table, where we consume them. These rising levels of pollutants also change the genetic makeup of fish, causing deformities that continue to reappear as fish reproduce.
However, these problems can still very much be fixed. The sewage leaks come from aging pipelines and improper sewage systems. By revising and improving these systems, not only are the Great Lakes saved from pollutants, but jobs are created. Focusing ideas on the end of an environmentally friendly sewage system is vital for our Great Lakes to remain fresh and fun to splash into on a hot summer day.