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Lake Erie is the fourth largest of the five Great Lakes in North America, and the eleventh largest lake in the world, by surface area. Lake Erie, aside from providing drinking water to the neighboring population, is a source for many waterborne commerce, navigation, and manufacturing. Outflow from Lake Erie spins the huge turbines at Niagara Falls providing hydroelectric power to Canada and the U.S. The intensive industrial development along the shores of the lake has been damaging the lake’s environment for decades with issues such as overfishing, pollution and more recently rapid algae blooms.

During the summer months, Lake Erie along with the rest of the five Great Lakes smothers under huge swaths of green algae, often thousands of square kilometers in size. The algae proliferates by feeding on excess nutrients in the form of phosphorous in the water. The phosphorus comes from sewage treatment plants and fertilizer used in farms that runoff along with rain water and enter into streams and rivers eventually winding up in Lake Erie. Blue-green algae also thrives on light. Lake Erie, being the shallowest of the Great Lakes, especially at its west end, is more susceptible to algae than its deeper cousins, which do not have the same penetration of sunlight.

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