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Causes and Affects

In: English and Literature

Submitted By scottf101
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Determining Causes and Effects

Known as the Laurentian Great Lakes for its connection to the St. Lawrence River, the lakes combined make up nearly 20 percent of the world's fresh water (Latham, Wright, & Tsang, n.d.) Lakes Erie, Huron, Michigan, Ontario, and Superior are 5 lakes that provide food, jobs, and recreation to the surrounding regions reaching into two countries. The New York Times (2010) also estimate more than 30 million people are the recipient of potable water from the lakes. With over 3.2 million harvestable fish worth an estimated 4.8 million dollars, Lake Huron is important to the fishing industry. According to McCrimmon (2002), Lake Huron alone has over 117 species of fish. Lake Huron, as well as the other great lakes, is also polluted. For this essay, pollution is the injection of biological or non-biological elements into Lake Huron which are detrimental to the health of the lake and its inhabitants. Sewage, along with additional factors and with far reaching effects, is the primary cause of the decline of the various benefits the lake provides; it is harmful and potentially fatal to people, jobs, the economy, and of course, the aquatic life and wildlife of the Lake Huron area.

There are quite a few types of pollution which are damaging Lake Huron. Industrial sewage and waste may be, arguably, the most damaging cause of pollution. Additional causes of Lake Huron's pollution also come from biological sources such as, ironically, other aquatic life. Industrial waste and non-indigenous fish induced problems are not the only origins of pollution. People also play a part, indirectly and directly, in polluting the lakes. Too often, trash is left behind after visiting the lake for recreational purposes or trash is dumped intentionally. Gas and oil from boats or other recreational water vehicles seep into the lakes though there is no intention to pollute.

A major cause of the pollution stems from years of abuse by commercial industries. Originally, many did not understand the effects of dumping waste into water sources. There was no understanding of what various chemicals would do to the food source within the lakes and ultimately the environment. The lakes were used as a dumping ground in the hopes that the water would dilute any waste and eventually get rid of it. This practice continued for decades and only began to slow down as the idea of environmental conservation spread. A study done by the University of Michigan (Latham et al., n.d.) points out The Clean Water Act of 1972 was the first true governmental attempt at cleaning up water sources and keeping them clean. In some instances, damage had already been done to both the lake and its inhabitants. Riley’s (2008) report documenting the complete extirpation of some fish and the diminishing presence of lake sturgeon supports this.

These point-source pollutants have provided some of the most destructive effects on Lake Huron. The source of this type of pollution has been verified in most instances. Point source pollution is traceable back to a delivery point such as the exit point of a sewer pipe from an industrial plant. (Latham, n.d.) Fish and wildlife have been on a steady decline in both presence and health due to poisoning from harsh pollutants. The Great Lake Information Network (n.d.) website details some of the types of waste such as deadly mercury, fecal matter, pesticides, and insecticides. An upward and negative chain reaction has ensued affecting aquatic life, wildlife, regional industries, and humans.

Though much of the damage has been caused by a poisonous injection of materials into the water, an unlikely source is also the culprit for the decline of Lake Huron's benefits. Aquatic life has played a hand in negatively affecting the environment and region as a whole. Sixteen species of fish have been introduced into Lake Huron (McCrimmon, 2002.) Though some have been intentional releases to help with the local fishing industry, not all have. One of the most problematic fish is the predatory sea lamprey. Accidently introduced via canals, the trout industry suffered greatly due to the arrival of the sea lamprey. Biological pollutants, like the sea lamprey which seems benign, can often be a large danger if not properly controlled in an environmentally safe manner.

The zebra mussel, a non-indigenous aquatic life, has also posed a problem for the environment. The filter-feeding zebra mussel was introduced as it drained into the lake from the ballast water of transatlantic ships. This point-source pollutant has provided some of the most destructive effects to the Lake Huron water environment. McCrimmon (2002) explains how their normal eating habits have changed the habitat where large groups settle. With other fish fighting for food with indigenous freshwater inhabitants, long standing fisheries have suffered. It is not only the native lake inhabitants who have suffered fighting for food or by becoming food, the fishing industry, regional wildlife and humans have also felt the impact.

Humans are not exempt from blame for the direct hurting of Lake Huron. They, too, have been guilty of contaminating the lakes. The Great Lakes are vital to the regions recreational activities and many people take advantage of the various ways the lakes are used for enjoyment. The human footprint has left trash, a non-point source of pollution, as evidence of their recreational fun. Whether it is dumping household or camping trash, Lake Huron has been littered with unnecessary debris that hurts the aquatic life and environment. Even tourist activities, such as fishing and boating, leave their mark. Overfishing has contributed to the dwindling of certain fish which support local economies. From commercial and recreational vehicles, gas and oil are leaked (or poured) into the water. This can be fatally harmful to fish and crustaceans diminishing the already depressed population.

All of these causes have had devastating effects on Lake Huron and all it touches. There has been a need to increase spending by the government to put laws in place to protect the Great Lakes. There is also a cost to enforcing the laws. Industries, such as fishing, have suffered due to a lack of product which can potentially drive up prices. Industrial plants have increased costs to make certain they are compliant with laws. Increasing over-all costs may be extended to consumers who are forced to pay higher prices for goods and services from Lake Huron dependent companies. Increased costs, spending, and prices can negatively impact the region if actual revenue drops.

After decades of doing business one way, Great Lakes companies and indeed entire industries, are forced to change to stay in business. Change management can also be painful to both company and consumer. Consumers may direct their spending dollars to less expensive options or to a company which is more familiar than one that has had to make changes to survive. Upgrading technology to be more "green" can often be cost prohibitive despite being necessary and required by law. This can force companies to restructure. Restructuring can in turn result in large layoffs of personnel which will definitely have a negative impact on the economy. People without jobs do not spend as much money and the economy suffers.

There have also been major effects people as a result of the pollution of Lake Huron. Though humans are at the top of the food chain, pollution has left its mark on us. When fish have been poisoned by toxic pollution, the results are devastating and sometimes fatal to humans. The Great Lakes Information Network website (n.d.) explains Cancer, reproductive issues, neurological disorders, and even skin infection have been known to happen when digesting chemicals found in polluted waters and fish. "Toxic pollutants can also alter the genetic makeup of an organism, resulting in either death or extreme deformities." (GLIN, n.d.) With tumors and cancer as a possible result, every effort must be made to clean up and prevent future pollution to Lake Huron and the other Great Lakes.

Though certainly less serious than community job loss or major health issues, another consideration is tourism. Sewage and bacteria pollutants have forced beach closures (Latham, n.d.) Typhoid fever causing bacteria in fecal matter has been found in one fifth of beach samples according to a source used in the University of Michigan study (n.d.). Tourists who normally enjoy the Great Lakes beaches will undoubtedly refrain from visiting if there is the possibility of becoming seriously ill as a result of the visit. Fewer tourists to the area will have a negative impact on local business reliant on tourism, including fisheries which supply fresh fish to local restaurants.

In conclusion, sewage, other point source and non-point source waste has negatively affected Lake Huron, its fish, the surrounding industries and the local population. Though sewage is the main pollutant, additional problems such as non-indigenous aquatic life, trash, and gas or oil from boats have also had devastating effects. The fishing industry has thus suffered resulting in lost jobs and tourism has diminished. The health of residents in the Lake Huron area has felt the impact as well. The causes and effects of the pollution is documented and noted enough that the government has developed a five year blueprint for the clean-up of the great lakes in answer to this problem according to the New York Times (2010).


Associated Press (2010, February 21) Federal Officials Unveil Blueprint for Great Lakes New York Times. Retrieved from

Great Lakes Information Network, (n.d.) Water Pollution in the Great Lakes. Retrieved from

Latham, A., Wright, E., & Tsang, A. (n.d.) University of Michigan: A Study of how pollution affects wildlife in the Great Lakes: Pollution's Effects on the Great Lakes Ecosystem Retrieved from

McCrimmon Jr., D. A. (2002). Sustainable fisheries management in the Great Lakes: Scientific and operational challenges. Lakes & Reservoirs: Research & Management, 7(3), 241-254. doi:10.1046/j.1440-1770.2002.00192.x

Riley, S. C., Roseman, E. F., Nichols, S. J., O'Brien, T. P., Kiley, Courtney, S., Schaeffer, J. S. (2008): Deepwater Demersal Fish Community Collapse in Lake Huron, Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 137:6, 1879-1890. Retrieved from

The Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation [Online Image].(n.d.) Retrieved from

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