Swimmers to tackle 24-hour challenge in Lake Erie

Satellite photo from a NASA website show algae blooms on Lake Erie in this Oct. 5, 2011, file photo.
Satellite photo from a NASA website show algae blooms on Lake Erie in this Oct. 5, 2011, file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP Photo/NASA, File

At sunrise on Saturday, four seasoned open-water swimmers will start a 24-hour challenge in Lake Erie.

Anita Doppenberg, Josh Reid, Michael Kenny and Jennifer Agnew will swim 10 routes of varying lengths, ultimately ending up at Crystal Beach in Fort Erie.

Their swim will have them jumping from location to location. It will start with a jaunt in the Detroit River to Peche Island. Once each route is complete, they will load into a car bound for the next one.

Raj Gill, with the Canadian Freshwater Alliance, says the challenge aims to highlight threats to the lake’s ecosystem, such as plastic pollution and phosphorous-fuelled algae blooms.

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It’s an issue that has been reoccurring since the 1960s and 1970s. The phosphorous leaking into Lake Erie back then, she says, was industrial pollution. It was met with stiffer regulations, the removal of phosphorus from detergents, and better wastewater facilities.

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The issue now, she says, is largely due to phosphorous coming from farm fields.

“We’re asking the Ontario government to actually enforce the water protection laws that are actually on the books,” Gill said.

For example, Ontario should ensure that any manure produced on farms is stored properly and only applied to fields when allowed.

The alliance is hoping to raise $4,000 for a new initiative called the Lake Erie Guardians. The program supports citizen-run efforts to protect Lake Erie and its rivers, including watershed cleanups.

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Given the concerns about water quality, Gill says they will be monitoring public health advisories to ensure it’s safe for the swimmers to take the plunge.