Katie Bildhauser, Advertising Manager/ Reporter

The Crown Jewel of the Midwest, also known as Lake Michigan, has been used as a garbage can since the 18 century. During the 18 and 19 centuries people dumped all of their garbage into the lake, but eventually in the 20 century that started to change. Litter is not the only thing getting into the lake; pollutants and pharmacy drugs are also taking over, which are hurting the fish in the lake.

There are three different types of pollution that are being put into Lake Michigan. They include, Nonpoint Source Pollution (NPS), Point Source Pollution, and Atmospheric Pollution. Nonpoint Source Pollution is extremely difficult to regulate and control because it is mostly caused by runoff from rain and snowmelt. It moves over land, picking up pollutants along the way. These include fertilizers, pesticides, oil, grease, salt, sediment from construction sites, and animal and human waste. Experts believe

Nonpoint Source Pollution is the main hazard facing the Great Lakes. BP, a large company, dumps over 20 times more toxic mercury into Lake Michigan than the federal regulations permit. The high mercury levels kill algae which fish eat.

Point Source Pollution is pollutants that enter the waterway through specific entry points, and industrial water discharges and sewage treatment plants are the biggest cause. Examples of these can include organic and non organic substances, human waste, and toxic metals. This is the easiest form of pollution to regulate.

Atmospheric Pollution is the third form of pollution, which is pollution that falls from the sky. This is caused by chemicals and smoke being released into the air. One of the biggest causes is the burning of fossil fuels. Acid rain is a well-known example of atmospheric pollution. Since 2000, more than 34 billion gallons of raw sewage have been dumped into Lake Michigan. In 2010 6.5 billion gallons of sewage pollution was discharged into Lake Michigan from the Chicago area.

Many pharmaceutical drugs are also found in the lake. These drugs get into Lake Michigan from people flushing them down the toilet or sink. These affect the fish in our lake in many different ways. Metformin, a drug for diabetes can be found in the lake and it changes the fish’s hormones. Other pharmacy drugs that are found include androstenedione, caffeine, carbadox, progesterone, sulfamethoxazole, triclosan, and many more. The proper way to dispose of pharmacy drugs is to mix it with an undesirable substance such as coffee grounds or cat litter, or the city can be contacted to see if there are any drug take-back programs available.

Lake Michigan is the source of drinking water for over ten million people, but the pharmacy drugs do not affect people’s health as of now. If the drugs keep getting dumped in the lake it may cause problems to people in the future. In the summer of 2012 over 50 beaches on Lake Michigan tested positive for mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, and E. coli. Although pollution in the Lake is not affecting humans now, it may be in the near future.

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