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Friday, 21 March 2014 08:27

The Three-Eyed Fish That Is Drawing Attention to Raw Sewage and Toxic Pollution in the Great Lakes

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afishgreatlak(Photo: Thoth, God of Knowledge)It is important to note, particularly given the predictions of an increasing shortage of fresh water due to global warming, that the Great Lakes (fly over country) contain 1/5th of the world's non-saltwater supply.  If these five large bodies of water, along with the thousands of smaller lakes in the upper Midwest and lower cental Canada, are polluted, the North American fresh water reserve will be devastated.

This brings us to the curious three-eyed walleye found in Lake Nipissing, a large lake in Ontario that is in the Great Lakes Basin, which Vice.com describes as:

Home to more than 4,000 species, including 100 rare plants and animals, many of which are on the brink of extinction. It stretches 244,000 square kilometers, holds 5,000 tributaries and 30,000 islands. In short, the basin is the largest freshwater ecosystem on earth. And it’s under attack.

Indeed - not to pile on the likely pending catastrophe of an eco-spheric breakdown due to toxic emissions that will cause havoc in the oceans, send global temperatures soaring, kill off an enormous number of species and cause mass migration - our fresh water is at risk, the Vice article points out, due to the ecological altering reality of daily sewage contamination:

Each year, billions of litres of raw sewage are dumped into its waters by way of combined sewer overflows from antiquated wastewater systems and bypasses at municipal treatment plants. The latter process is a deliberate discharge that occurs during heavy rainstorms, spring snowmelt and power failures....

“Sewage is not a very sexy topic. It doesn’t get a lot of attention, which is why we want to get this information out there,” [Liat Podolsky, Ecojustice staff scientist] says. “The fact that billions of litres of untreated or partially treated sewage are still going into the waters is a telling fact that the problem is not under control.”

In short, we are flushing pollutants into 20 percent of the world's freshwater supply at a rate that almost ensures what we now have as drinkable water is in profound danger - not to mention its eco-system including fish and a delicate species balance that ensures the water remains relatively potable.  Vice.com concludes: "Sewage pollution of the type infecting the Great Lakes Basin is a noxious cocktail of toxic chemicals, human waste, disease-causing pathogens, oils and heavy metals like mercury, cadmium and zinc." (This also includes prescription drugs and personal care products -- as well, of course, as a mega-load of industrial pollution.)

Lake Nipising is serving as a petri dish for understanding the destinies of the Great Lakes under siege. Some threats are already clear:

Over the last few years, cyanobacteria, more commonly known as blue-green algae, has been found blooming in various parts of the lake

“Basically, because you have these toxins in the water, your microsystems that are produced by the blue-green algae are highly toxic. It’s something that’s quite systemic all over different parts of Lake Nipissing,” says [a researcher]. “The microsystems will basically act on the liver and they can affect the nervous system as well.” 

According to Health Canada, humans exposed to cyanobacterial toxins can develop long-term or chronic illnesses. Some neurodegenerative diseases, like ALS, have been linked to blue-green algae exposure. More common symptoms include headache, nausea and vomiting. Aquatic and terrestrial animals exposed to the toxins are likely to become severely ill or die.

Marianna Couchie, chief of the Nipissing First Nation, cites a laundry list of issues, including blue-green algae, affecting the waters of her beloved community. Invasive species, the depletion of the walleye fishery, fertilizers from surface runoff, 1,800 ice shacks with no toilets and uranium mine tailings on the shores of Yellick all roll off her tongue with a tone that borders anxiety and anger.

Sometimes a three-eyed fish is more than an aquatic freak show specimen; sometimes it is a portent that while we worry about the heating up and rising tides of the ocean, we are largely ignoring the degradation of our fresh water supply.

There's one word for that: a deadly legacy for our future generations.

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