Geography 2011A/B Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Chicago River, Lake Huron, Lake Superior
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Waterlife – Film Notes
The lm begins with a look a beluga whales in the St. Lawrence River. They have
cancer. Why? The water looks clean. Besides, it takes 350 years from water to get
from L. Superior to the ocean (about the same amount of time since European
settlement began – and also 7 generations).
There is a shot of a native sherman shing from a boat. He takes a drink of
water directly from the lake.
Hydroelectricity generated from rivers +owing into L. Superior allowed to
development and growth to take place there. Once example is Pulp and
Paper – an industry which uses water to make its product, along with bleach,
inorganic chemicals, and other compounds, many of which are regulated.
90% are removed from waste water before it is discharged into rivers and the
lake (that means 10% remains).
The Sioux Rapids have been circumvented by locks for navigation – this has
allowed invasive species to move freely as well – example zebra mussels, sea
The Mother Earth Water Walk:
We are introduced to a rst nations woman participating in the Mother Earth
Water Walk. There is a link on webct about this walk – the goal is to walk
around the coast of all the Great Lakes – this is 17,000 km or 10,000 miles –
to raise awareness.
The Straits of Mackinaw join L. Superior to L. Michigan (the only lake wholly
inside the U.S.)
L. Michigan is a naturally very industrious lake – constantly eroding the
Fishing was a very important industry until the 1960s – when the sea lamprey
ruined the shery. Now some areas have turned to tourism for an economic
Chicago. People moved to this are because of the Lake. Between 1800 and
1870s the population grew from a few hundred to about 1 million. The waste
(sewage) from this population went straight into the Chicago River and into
Lake Michigan, on which the people also relied for clean drinking water. The
contaminated water resulted in disease and death (cholera outbreaks, other
Chicago Sanitary/Shipping Canal was built to reverse the direction of the
Chicago River. It now +ows south, connecting to the Illinois River and the
Mississippi. This resulted in a cleaned up Lake front for Chicago, but left no
incentive to clean up the Chicago River. It remains a cesspool full of
untreated sewage from the metropolis. The sewage/wastewater in Chicago is
treated only for solids, not for bacteria.
Chicago Sanitary/Shipping Canal is also a 2-way street. It is a potential
gateway for species to move between 2 previously unconnected water
systems. The biggest current threat is the Asian Carp – a foreign sh to North
America making its way north. It eats 40% of its bodyweight a day and would
destroy the shery in the Great Lakes. The strategy to prevent that is an
electried section of the canal where the water is shocked with electricity to
deter the carp from passing. They need a way to stop the sh, without
stopping the movement of water and shipping.
East Chicago Area – is very heavily industrialized. The landscape has been
obliterated and the water polluted. The larges problem is contaminated
sediments on the bottom of harbours and rivers, which can be resuspended
by storms, shipping or dredging. Bottom feeders consume sediments and
pass them up the food chain where PCBs can increase in concentration by
100 million times. Many of the chemicals which bioaccumulate/biomagnify
are endocrine disrupters which mimic or block hormones, which then
interferes with the development of organisms.
The Fox River – also +ows into L. Michigan. There they have undertaken a
sediment removal project there at a cost of ½ billion $. Sediment is
vacuumed oD the bottom of the river and disposed of in regular landlls
(even though it is contaminated with PCBs which have been banned since the
To clean up (remove and dispose of) the contaminated sediment around all
the 43 hotspots in the Great Lakes would cost at least 10s of billions of $.
Georgian Bay – thousands of islands are a wonder of habitat and biodiversity.
There wetlands provide the basis for a healthy shery in the lake – a place for
spawning and development.
The feeling among the public is that the Great Lakes looks clean, the sport
shery is okay, and all is well.
The US EPA has one boat (the Lake Guardian) out monitoring changes in the
environment on the lakes. We see them looking at changes in the food web.
They document a rapid decline in the populations of small organisms at the
bottom of the food chain. The hypothesis is that the zebra mussel is out-
competing the other species for that food supply.