Friday, September 7, 2018

Lake Erie Threatened by Harmful Algae Blooms

Mike Stermitz is an environmental and water quality specialist who has undertaken inspections of construction projects, oil and gas fields, and bodies of water all across the United States. Mike Stermitz is experienced in water quality assessments and the steps necessary to achieve a healthy ecosystem.

One major issue impacting the Great Lakes over the past decade has been a sharp rise in harmful algae blooms, with one in late 2017 encompassing 700 square miles across Lake Erie’s western basin. 

With researchers pointing toward an elevated use of fertilizers in surrounding agricultural land as a primary cause, the bright green algae blooms are a concern because of the presence of cyanobacteria, which can produce toxins.

One such toxin, microcystin, is capable of damaging the liver. With 3 million people dependent on Lake Erie’s central basin for drinking water, this poses a significant concern. In 2014 levels of microcystin reached potentially dangerous thresholds, and Toledo ceased delivering water to a half million local residents for three days. 

One University of Michigan aquatic ecologist blames the agriculture industry and its phosphorus inputs to the soil, stating that the threat will persist until this fundamental issue is taken care of.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Protections Provided by Migratory Bird Treaty Act at Risk

Environmental specialist Mike Stermitz has over three decades of experience studying wildlife and pollution. In addition, he determined if entities were in compliance with existing laws and regulations and issued violations if required measures were not taken. Functioning as a construction manager for Arcadis, a global design and consulting firm, Mike Stermitz has conducted surveys pertaining to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).

Established in 1918, the MBTA was one of the National Audubon Society’s first victories. Written in response to the extinction or near extinction of several species of birds in North America, the act in its current form makes it illegal to hunt, kill, or trap over 1,000 species of birds. In 1972, it was expanded to add protections for several more species. At that time, the act began to be used in the prosecution of companies whose practices needlessly killed birds.

In response to heightened monetary penalties, industries enacted numerous, relatively inexpensive measures that save the lives of millions of birds that are exposed to harmful oil waste pits or attracted to gas flares and lights on communications towers. Due to a recent legal opinion released by the U.S. Department of the Interior, the accountability that the MBTA provided is now at risk. In the opinion, the MBTA can no longer be used in the prosecution of industries that fail to use basic preventive measures to inhibit the accidental deaths of birds.

Conservationists are very concerned about the implications of the legal opinion. The action rolls back basic conservation measures that have received bipartisan support for a century. As a result of the opinion, they argue that millions of birds will be at risk. Proponents of the measure argue that the opinion will prevent certain industries from being unfairly targeted using the MBTA.