There’s nothing like a trip to the lake. It’s a favorite pastime for many that’s filled with happy memories of lounging on the beach, going for a swim with your friends, or paddling a canoe along the shoreline. It’s a place to relax and enjoy everything nature has to offer, whether it’s in the middle of a bustling urban area surrounded by condos or a quiet town dotted with quaint cabins.
But lakes aren’t here just to provide humans a place for fun and relaxation — they serve an important role in the planet’s ecosystems by providing a home to aquatic species, and by serving as a water and food source for wildlife. Sadly, our actions are causing mass pollution of our lakes, threatening vegetation and aquatic life, and the animals who rely on freshwater sources for survival.
Pollution from plastic and other solid waste is part of the problem, but chemicals from household products, fertilizer, and even road salt are also contaminating our lakes, causing high levels of bacteria and nutrients, depleting oxygen levels, and posing a threat to aquatic species, wildlife and even humans.
Fertilizer, Pesticides and Other Chemical Waste
Around 75 million pounds of pesticides and 22 million tons of fertilizer are being used in the U.S. annually. Agricultural practices are primarily responsible for these high numbers, but the quest for the perfect green lawn has resulted in stores stockpiling lawn chemicals as well.
When nitrogen and phosphorous from fertilizer enters lakes, it stimulates the growth of algae and aquatic plants, which can eventually suffocate lakes and result in “dead zones” where aquatic life is unable to thrive due to a lack of oxygen in the water.
In 2010, the EPA conducted a survey of 50,000 lakes in the U.S. and found that 20 percent showed evidence of pollution from nitrogen and phosphorus. Only about 50 percent of fertilizers are actually taken up by the crops themselves. The rest end up somewhere else, like waterways… A 2012 study found that 35 percent of lakes had excess nitrogen and 40 percent had excess phosphorous, affecting the biological condition of 31 percent of the lakes studied.
In the case of pesticides, the results aren’t much less bleak. The U.S. applies over one billion pounds of pesticides to crops a year, meaning there is an enormous potential for these chemicals to escape into the environment. Atrazine, the most widely used pesticide in the United States, has been shown to cause sexual abnormalities in frogs. Atrazine is not water soluble, meaning when it rains, it can easily wash off crop fields and into surrounding watersheds without breaking down.
Between 70 and 80 million pounds of pesticides are sprayed on home lawns, trees, and shrubs per year in the United States. Among these pesticides are chemicals including organophosphate and carbamates that are fat soluble –…