Discover Michigan’s Most Polluted Lake (And What Lives In It)

There are five great lakes in the United States; They include Lake Erie, Huron, Superior, Ontario, and Michigan, which make up the largest freshwater system in the world. In addition, the Great Lakes stretch over 10,000 miles and make up nearly a fifth of Earth’s freshwater surface. Lake Erie is the most polluted lake in Michigan It is the fourth largest in the Great Lakes region.

Aerial view of oil polluted water spouts being released into Lake Erie from the Nanticoke steel mills, seen ashore on Port Dover Beach, Ontario.
An aerial view of an oil-polluted watershed being released into Lake Erie from the Nanticoke steel mills, seen ashore on Port Dover Beach, Ontario.

© 94Mark /


Native Americans have called the Great Lakes home for nearly 10,000 years. Then in the 17th century, the first Europeans settled there and started farming and hunting wild animals for animal fur. Now, more than 35 million people call the Great Lakes Basin home in the United States and Canada. These lakes are essential for irrigation, drinking water, transportation, and recreational activities, including boating, hunting, wildlife observation, and fishing.

Lake Erie forms a border between Canada and the United States. The lake’s drainage basin area is 30,140 square miles, and the lake receives water from other rivers in Detroit. Of course, the Great Lakes are home to some of North America’s most enchanting wildlife, such as the Canadian lynx, moose, gray wolf, and bald eagle. Moreover, the lakes are also home to many species of migratory birds and many different fish, including:

  • Light grey
  • whitefish
  • trout
  • muscular lung

Wildlife surrounding Michigan’s most polluted lake

The environment around the Great Lakes, including the most polluted lake in Michigan, was dominated by grasslands and forests, with many wetlands. Unfortunately, these areas are getting smaller and smaller. However, the small areas that remain provide habitat for many species of wildlife, including:

  • beaver
  • Moose
  • the gray wolf
  • river otter
  • Canada Lynx
  • Little Brown Pat
  • American coyote – Coyote
  • Many species of migratory birds, such as the northern harrier, double-breasted cormorant, and the endangered Kirtland warbler
  • Fish such as yellow perch, lake sturgeon, brook trout, and walleye


Beavers are known for their building skills. Notably, they will use things like stones, branches, and mud to build dams called fora. These dams would run along a stream, blocking the flow of water and creating a large pond. Beavers will build their homes in these dams instead of in streams.

These creatures are part of a group of animals known as rodents, which includes species such as squirrels, mice, and muskrats. Moreover, there are two types of beavers. These include the American beaver and the Eurasian beaver. The American beaver is found in North America, and the Eurasian beaver is found in parts of Asia and Europe. Beavers have thick brown fur, short front legs and large hind feet, which makes them good swimmers. In addition, beavers can stay under water for up to 15 minutes. Moreover, they are most active at night and eat mostly:

Beavers have thick brown fur, short front legs and large hind feet, which makes them good swimmers.

© / webmink

river otter

River otters are made to swim. Therefore, their bodies are smooth with webbed feet and short legs. Furthermore, it can close its nostrils underwater, and its fur is thick to keep it warm. They are part of a group called Mustelids. Therefore, they are associated with badgers, wolves, stoats, minks, and weasels. Females are smaller than males.

Otters are found in streams, rivers, lakes, and estuaries. This includes the most polluted lake in Michigan. These are carnivores, and their diet mainly consists of:

  • snakes
  • Amphibians
  • worms
  • snails
  • turtle
  • birds
  • Fish
  • aquatic invertebrates
River otter swimming in the water
Otters occur in streams, rivers, lakes, and estuaries.

© / Catherine Farley

Canada Lynx

Lynx is found in North America, Asia and Europe. They are known for their remarkable eyesight and short tails. In addition, these wild cats can be up to 40 inches long! Their thick, thin feet and long legs help them navigate harsh terrain. Moreover, they are usually yellowish-brown to gray in color with some dark spots, providing excellent camouflage.

These beautiful animals are related to caracals and bobcats. In addition, they are most active at night when hunting and live in small groups or alone. Moreover, they can swim and climb well, which helps when sneaking up on prey. Finally, they eat mostly small animals, birds, sheep, and deer.

Canada Lynx sitting in a tree on a sunny day
Lynx is found in North America, Asia and Europe.

© Ewa Studio /

Kirtland’s tweeter

Kirtland’s Warbler is one of the rarest songbirds in North America. It is also sometimes known as the Jack Pine bird. These birds are gray and yellow and picky breeders. It will only breed in young jack pine forests in parts of Ontario, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

These amazing little birds have spent nearly 50 years on the endangered species list. Fortunately, extensive conservation, which included suppressing brown-headed cowbirds, helped increase the population to the point where they were written off. So although their numbers are still low, it is relatively easy to find them in young pine forests. These migratory birds overwinter in parts of the Bahamas and are occasionally found at migration sites such as Maggie Marsh, Ohio.

Light grey

Walleye is a freshwater fish that is part of the perch family. These fish are found in North America and Canada. Besides being popular with anglers, they prefer clean waters with pebbly bottoms. These fish can weigh up to 20 pounds and measure 31 inches in length. Interestingly, the females of this species are larger than the males.

Walleyes can appear olive brown, black, dark brown, or golden brown with yellow underneath and yellow or silver on their bodies. In addition, they have very sharp teeth as well as sharp spines on their dorsal fins. Finally, these fish lack the yellow and blue pigments in their eyes, so they only see things in shades of green and red. However, their excellent eyesight allows them to move easily through murky and dark waters.

Walleye pike is the official state fish of Vermont
Walleyes can appear olive brown, black, dark brown, or golden brown with yellow underneath and yellow or silver on their bodies.

© / Vladislav Danilin


Lake Erie, Michigan’s most polluted lake, is exposed to relentless chemicals that can linger for several years. These chemicals include:

  • Raw sewage overflow
  • Industrial waste
  • Mining operations
  • surface runoff from cities

Pollution in the Great Lakes region affects more than 100,000 species that live in these waters. Of course, the fish that feed at the bottom of these lakes are at risk of consuming the plastic. In addition, the Great Lakes provide drinking water to more than 40 million people in addition to transportation and irrigation.

Microplastic is one of the major sources of pollution in all of the Great Lakes. Unfortunately, microplastics are tiny remnants of plastic about the size of a grain of rice. For example, they can be found in cleaning products and toothpaste that contain exfoliating granules and are very difficult to clean. Every year, about 22 million pounds of plastic enter the Great Lakes region.

One of the other problems facing the Great Lakes region is the rapid growth of algae resulting from large amounts of nutrients from agriculture. These include phosphorous and nitrogen from fertilizers, animal manure and soil erosion. In addition, humans contribute to nutrient contamination. For example, our soaps and detergents flow into local waterways and flow into lakes.

How to reduce pollution

There are many actions we can take to help reduce pollution, including:

  • Start a compost pile to avoid waste.
  • Wash your car on the lawn to prevent runoff into the street.
  • Test the soil before adding fertilizer.
  • Reduce the amount of plastic you use. For example, use a reusable water bottle and stop using single-use plastics.
  • Look for biodegradable products or natural materials.
  • Don’t throw rubbish Pick up rubbish before leaving any area.

Saving Lake Erie

In 2017, the advocate for clean Lake Erie and the ELPC sued the US government, mainly for neglecting to enforce the Clean Water Act that would protect Lake Erie communities. Then, a federal judge agreed, and Ohio’s Environmental Protection Agency declared western Lake Erie officially “disabled” in 2018. However, Ohio has not provided the EPA with a proper plan to reduce phosphorus.

In 2019, the Lucas County Board of Commissioners and the ELPC filed a similar lawsuit, this time against the Trump Administration EPA. Furthermore, they have challenged the approval of Ohio’s Environmental Protection Agency’s decision in 2018 to make Western Lake Erie a “low” priority. The same Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has acknowledged that it does not have an effective plan to reduce phosphorous pollution. However, the court was asked to oversee a substantial strategy, including a timetable and progress report for reducing phosphorous contamination.

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