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Lake Erie's Dead Zones

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The U.S. EPA has concluded this summer's special sampling of Lake Erie, trying to understand the cause of new 'dead zones.' ideastream's Karen Schaefer has more.

Friday, September 20, 2002 at 3:39 pm

Karen Schaefer: Since spring, scientists from several universities have been working with government researchers to collect data that will help answer the question of why phosphorus levels are rising. Phosphorus feeds algae growth, whose decay can use up oxygen at the bottom of the lake. This year, scientists say the area of depleted oxygen - also known as a dead zone - was about half the size of the Central Basin. Researchers still don't know what's causing the changes in water chemistry, although they suspect that zebra and quagga mussels could be one source. This fall, the data collected by both U.S. and Canadian researchers will be analyzed in the laboratory. But Jerry Matsoff, a biologist with Case Western Reserve University, says one season of sampling may not be enough.

The U.S. EPA has not yet commited additional funding to the project, but a number of individual researchers say they plan to continue their investigations next year. Scientists will present their preliminary findings in Windsor, Ontario this November. Karen Schaefer, 90.3.