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Lake Erie Rehabilitated

Controlling Cultural Eutrophication 1960s-1990s

By William McGucken

Publication Year: 2000

During the 1960s, inland bodies of water in North America and Europe experienced a dangerous transformation. Nutrients were dumped into the lakes, causing chain reactions which severely impacted on lake environments. The excessive increase into inland waters through human activity, known as cultural eutrofication, emerged as a dominant problem. Massive algae blooms drifted in overnourished lakes, depleting oxygen, damaging fish stocks, and transforming the water's ecosystem. In Lake Erie Rehabilitated, historian William McGucken presents a comprehensive account of the most notorious international incident of cultural eutrophication---Lake Erie. With the assistance of the International Joint Commission, Canada and the United States diagnosed phosphorous as the primary cause of the problem and, in a unique cooperative effort, reduced input to the lake from municipal and industrial wastewater plants and agricultural lands. Public pressure and government regulation encouraged the reluctant detergent industry to produce alternative detergents and, finally, reduced the input of phosphorous to targeted levels. Lake Erie is now rehabilitated, but its history over the last three decades demonstrates the importance of maintaining an environmental balance. Meticulously researched and documented, this book will appeal to environmentalists, historians, and readers who seek to understand the Great Lakes ecosystem, environmental issues, and environmental regulation.

Published by: The University of Akron Press


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p. iii-iii


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p. iv-iv


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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p. ix-ix

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Series Preface

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p. xi-xi

This book series springs from public awareness of and concern about the effects of technology on the environment. Its purpose is to publish the most informative and provocative work emerging from research and reflection, work that will place these issues in an historical context, define the current nature of the debates, and anticipate the direction of future...

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pp. xiii-xiv

This book is an outgrowth of two of my previous books. In the earlier one, Scientists, Society, and State: The Social Relations of Science Movement in Great Britain, 1931–1947 (1984), I show that, during the 1930s, British scientists debated the question of who in a democratic society is responsible for the uses to which science and technology are put. During the summer...

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pp. 1-13

From the late 1950s, many people in the world’s industrialized nations became increasingly concerned about what they thoughtlessly had been doing, and were continuing to do, to their environments. Local, national,and international environmental groups emerged to lobby legislatures to take, among other measures, actions to curb the pollution of land, air, and...

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Chapter I: Cultural Eutrophication: An International Problem

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pp. 14-27

The cultural eutrophication of lakes emerged as a serious international environmental problem during the 1960s. It was promptly investigated by, among others, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, international symposia of scientists and engineers, and agencies of the United States federal government. The increased concentration of phosphorus in lake water, contributed to significantly by the...

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Chapter II: Eutrophication of Ontario Waters

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pp. 28-35

While scientists from around the world were investigating the causes of cultural eutrophication, officials responsible for water pollution control had to deal with the problem in their various jurisdictions as best they could. In the Canadian portion of the Great Lakes Basin, lying entirely within the province of Ontario, and elsewhere in Canada, eutrophication became a problem affecting hundreds of lakes from the late 1950s...

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Chapter III: The Polluting of Lake Erie

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pp. 36-53

The polluting of lake erie began long before the 1960s, and eutrophication was not the lake’s first pollution problem. By the early twenieth century, conditions in the Great Lakes had deteriorated to such an extent that Canada and the United States were compelled to launch the first of what would prove to be several joint inquiries into pollution problems. Until the 1960s, the prevailing view was that, because of the self-purifying...

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Chapter IV: The Lake Erie Enforcement Conference

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pp. 54-70

Although previously the United States had initiated and was now, in the mid-1960s, cooperating with Canada through the International Joint Commission in a study of the pollution problems of the lower Great Lakes, under public pressure the governors of the states in the Lake Erie Basin sought immediate remedial actions to prevent further deterioration of the lake. Their means was a Federal Water Pollution Control Act enforcement...

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Chapter V: The U.S. Government, the Detergent Industry, and Eutrophication

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pp. 71-82

The lake erie enforcement conference had agreed, as had other parties, that eutrophication could be controlled by reducing phosphorus inputs, and further had targeted phosphorus for substantial reduction in wastewater. Although the conferees recognized that phosphate detergents contributed considerable amounts of phosphorus to wastewater, that was something they could do little about beyond recommending that substitutes for phosphates in detergents be found. Within the U.S. federal...

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Chapter VI: The International Joint Commission’s Reference on the Lower Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River

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pp. 83-100

Canadian agencies on the other, had begun separately to tackle pollution problems in the Great Lakes, under the International Joint Commission’s leadership their efforts were coordinated, extended, and intensified in what would be the most comprehensive, thorough, and authoritative studies of the lakes to date. The initial focus of the IJC was the lower Great...

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Chapter VII: Canada’s Regulation of Phosphorus in Detergents

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pp. 101-118

The international joint commissionis not a lawmaking body; it can only make recommendations to the federal governments of Canada and the United States, which can choose whether or not to act upon them. When the IJC boards’ summary report was issued, in October 1969, a comprehensive water bill was making its way through the Canadian Parliament. Despite vigorous public opposition by industrial...

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Chapter VIII: U.S. Opposition to Detergent Phosphate

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pp. 119-142

Because of their contribution to eutrophication, there was as much opposition in the United States as in Canada to detergent phosphates; yet in contrast to the Canadian federal government’s regulatory response to the IJC’s recommendation for the reduction and elimination of phosphates, the United States federal government did not move to regulate them. Rather, in part because of concern about potential negative environ- mental effects of substitutes for phosphates, particularly NTA, it chose to...

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Chapter IX: Concerns about NTA Use

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pp. 143-156

Given developments concerning detergents during 1970— that government, industry, and the public understood that phosphates in detergents would have to be replaced; that the most promising replace- ment, NTA, was already being incorporated in detergents; and that if NTA were completely to replace phosphate, then some two billion pounds of it would be discharged into the aquatic environment annually...

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Chapter X: U.S. Reversal on Detergent Phosphate

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pp. 157-180

In the united states, in mid-1971, the continuing need was to control cultural eutrophication. The scientific, governmental, and public view was that it could be controlled by reducing phosphorus inputs. Under governmental and public pressure, the detergent industry reluctantly had begun to reduce the phosphate content of detergents while continuing to maintain, however, that a satisfactory way of controlling detergent phosphate was to remove it...

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Chapter XI: Control of Eutrophication under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1972

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pp. 181-209

While the united states and canada were responding separately to the recommendations of the International Joint Commission (IJC) concerning the eutrophication of the lower Great Lakes, at the same time, and prompted by the IJC reports, they began negotiating with one another to fashion a cooperative approach to protecting the quality of Great Lakes waters. The negotiations would result in their signing, in 1972...

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Chapter XII: Phosphorus Control under the 1978 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement

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pp. 210-219

One of the stipulations of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement was that it be reviewed by the parties during its fifth year of operation (1976–1977). Another clause required that the effects of the agreement’s phosphorus control program also be reviewed and modifications of it considered. To assist them in this latter task, the parties appointed a technical group, Task Group III (TG III)...

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Chapter XIII: Control of Phosphorus from Nonpoint Sources

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pp. 220-238

In the 1978 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the parties had specified the target loading of phosphorus, 11,000metric tons per annum, that would bring eutrophication under control in Lake Erie. By that time, they possessed a sound knowledge of the amounts of phosphorus being contributed by each significant municipal and industrial point source in both the United States and Canadian sections of the Lake Erie Basin, and would...

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Chapter XIV: Toward Phosphorus Target Loadings

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pp. 239-259

although the 1978 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement had stated that the parties, within eighteen months, would confirm the future phosphorus loadings stated in the agreement and, based on these, establish loading allocations and compliance schedules, these tasks were not accomplished until October 1983, when the parties added a supplement on phosphorus reduction to Annex 3of the agreement.1Only then did the parties...

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Chapter XV: Lake Erie Eutrophication Controlled

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pp. 260-277

The three goals of the phosphorus control program of the 1978 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) for Lake Erie were, as noted: substantial reduction in the levels of algal biomass to below that of a nuisance condition; elimination of nuisance growths of algae in bays and other areas where they occurred; and restoration of year-round aerobic conditions in the bottom waters of the central basin. As the waters of Lake...


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pp. 279-311


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pp. 313-318

E-ISBN-13: 9781935603160
E-ISBN-10: 1935603167
Print-ISBN-13: 9781884836589
Print-ISBN-10: 1884836585

Page Count: 318
Illustrations: 1 line drawing, 19 graphs
Publication Year: 2000