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SUBMITTED by Susan Peterson Gateley (17-Dec-2010)

In 2006 Lake Ontario had a terrible year. Masses of rotten stinking algae and dead fish piled up on my neighborhood beach. On my mooring I watched a ring bill gull die on my boat's fore deck, and that fall botulism killed hundreds of migrating loons. Two summers before that some kids on a beach walk found a number of wing-less flies from maggots on rotting bass. Last summer Sodus Bay residents observed an intense outbreak of blue green algae. Similar blooms of algae that produce toxins that damage the liver and can cause death if ingested occurred off Kingston, Hamilton, and in the Bay of Quinte. It was another tough year for our lake.

In September with the help of some boating acquaintances, I organized a program in Sodus Point to explain how human activity could cause algae blooms. Dr. Robert Howarth of Cornell supplied a video and answered questions via speaker phone. One homeowner asked “How can we help? What can we do?”

After terrible 2006 I spent two years writing “Twinkle Toes and the Riddle of the Lake”, a semi-fictional account of a crabby cat's environmental awakening. At its conclusion Twinkle Toes and her companions publish a list of twelve things humans can do to help Lake Ontario's creatures survive. This series is based upon that list.

Twinkle Toes realized many people failed to understand that healthy water requires healthy land and soil. And healthy humans need good water and soil, too. Tiny amounts of chemicals from sewage can make us sick. That's why the first item on Twink's list says watch what you flush down the toilet and put down the drain. Pharmaceuticals and other chemicals are turning up in our water supply. They are of concern because they're suspected of being “endocrine disruptors”.

Everything that makes us who we are-including our nervous and immune system development, organ and tissue growth, metabolism, intelligence, behavior, and sexuality-is governed by the body's endocrine system. It develops mostly during gestation and early childhood.

The endocrine system is made up of glands that deploy hormones, chemical "messengers," to distant body parts telling them how to develop. In this intricate complex delivery system, each message must be sent at precisely the right time and must be received by a specific target. Once the bond occurs, a chemical reaction is triggered and the fate of the cell is sealed. Although years may pass before the effects are seen, our bodies and minds are nonetheless programmed during narrow windows of time in early life. Ultimately, obesity, prostate cancer, lowered sperm counts, and premature birth may be tied to uptake of harmful chemicals that disrupt the system.

Animals are no different from humans in this regard. A chemical found in Prozac is turning up in transgender bass in the Potomac, while closer to home chemicals are suspected of causing problems with salmon fry in Great Lakes fish hatcheries and white perch with both male and female reproductive tissue in the Bay of Quinte.

HOW can you help? Dispose of household chemicals personal care products and drugs properly. Don't ever flush prescription drugs. If you take a prescription drug, don't over medicate. The less you take, the less will be excreted by your body. Watch for household e waste and toxic waste pick up events. Wayne County hosted one last fall. Other collection events will be upcoming. Watch website http://wfingerlakesauthority.org/ or check the newspaper for dates.

To learn more visit EPA at http://www.epa.gov/endo/pubs/edspoverview/whatare.htm.

This column is adapted from “Sid's List” in Twinkle Toes and the Riddle of the Lake available at www.chimneybluff.com or as an Amazon Kindle book with the complete list of 12 actions for HOW.


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3 Comments to "HOW - Helping Our Waters"

  1. Anonymous Said,

    What about the elite organization SOS (Save Our Sodus) and all the grants they received?

    Posted on Fri Dec 31, 06:38:00 AM EST

  2. Anonymous Said,

    Oh Lord, here we go again.. another "Grants are Bad" member. Hmmm..Keep up the good work Susan and crew. I know how much the lake means to all of us, grants or no..

    Posted on Fri Dec 31, 08:31:00 AM EST

  3. Seth C. Burgess Said,

    More to come about HOW from Susan Peterson Gateley...this series is about how YOU can do your part in preserving our water quality. And by the way, YOU is the only person you can directly affect the behavior of!

    Posted on Fri Dec 31, 09:06:00 AM EST


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