Freshwater Weekly – May 4th, 2018

Posted on May 4, 2018 by

This week: the Soo Locks + Wisconsin refinery explosion + new Line 5 oil spill estimate + Ontario Freshwater Priorities

Interview: FWF Executive Director on Lake Erie Algae Problem

DWILS 1320 radio station out of Lansing, Michigan interviewed our Executive Director—Jill Ryan—about Lake Erie’s algae problem. Jill reacted to Ohio’s recent announcement (read our summary in last week’s email) that its voluntary preventative measures haven’t worked, and she gave her thoughts on what needs to be done moving forward. Check it out here.

Michigan State University Study: $6.3 Billion Price Tag for Potential Mackinac Straits Oil Spill

MSU professor and ecological economist Robert B. Richardson has released a new study estimating the impacts of a potential oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac. The study’s conclusions are notably higher than previous estimates: $697.5 million in natural resource damage and restoration costs, $4.8 billion in economic impact to the tourism economy, $61 million in damage to commercial fishing, $233 million impact to municipal water systems, and $485 million in damage to coastal property values.

The pipeline, built in 1953, runs 645 miles from Superior, Wisconsin, to Sarnia, Canada, and transports up to 540,000 barrels of light crude oil and natural gas liquids per day. Calls to shut down the pipeline have become increasingly vocal and mainstream since 2013, when Line-5-operator Enbridge was found responsible the Kalamazoo River oil spill—one of the largest inland spills in U.S. history.

Scientists Testing for Black Carbon in Lake Superior After Wisconsin Refinery Explosion

Last Thursday, residents of Superior, Wisconsin and Duluth, Minnesota watched as thick, black smoke poured into the air from an explosion at Husky Energy’s Superior Refinery. The smoke plume was so massive that folks miles away could see it.

Fires—both natural and artificial—create a byproduct called black carbon, and researchers at University of Minnesota—Duluth are taking the opportunity to measure the levels of black carbon that were potentially added to Lake Superior from the smoke plume. Black carbon occurs naturally in the Lake, but the scientists are hoping that any measurable increase can offer insight into how black carbon effects microorganisms that live in freshwater. They say further study could illuminate how pollutants like oil cycle through and degrade in the Lake, something that’s not well understood in large lakes like Lake Superior.

Canadian Environmental Orgs List Ontario Freshwater Priorities

Freshwater Future Canada participated alongside an array of prominent environmental groups across Ontario in collectively drafting this list of freshwater threats and priorities for action. Highlights include ending boil-water advisories for all Ontarians including First Nation communities, reversing wetland loss by 2022, and reducing algae-feeding phosphorus pollution by 40% over the next 7 years. Addressing these threats is critical to protecting the Great Lakes, which supply drinking water to almost 80% of Ontarians.

Ways to Make a Difference

There are lots of simple ways to help protect our waters. Find more at


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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.