They don't call Michigan the Great Lakes State for nothing. Michigan has four of the five Great Lakes (Erie, Huron, Michigan, and Superior). There are also over 11,000 inland lakes and about 120 major rivers in Michigan. In total, these rivers cover about 36,350 square miles.

Bobby Guy
Bobby Guy
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A new study from the Environmental Integrity Project says that 95% of Michigan's rivers and streams are too polluted to swim in. The report also said that 45% of Michigan's inland lakes are too polluted to swim in.

Sunrise Over The Tahquamenon River And Lake Superior
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What Is An Impaired Lake, River, Or Stream?

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The study defines “impaired” waters as those that are too polluted to meet safety standards for swimming and recreation, aquatic life, fish consumption, or for use as drinking water. When you break it down, in the state of Michigan that is about 54,000 miles of rivers and streams that are polluted with things like nitrates, bacteria, or other contaminants which could make them unsafe for swimmers.

Why Are Michigan's Lakes, Rivers, And Streams So Polluted?

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Some of the biggest contributors to the poor water quality are organic waste compounds, including pollutants from car exhaust, factory smokestacks, tar, insecticides, herbicides, and detergent ingredients.

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What Can Be Done To Help With Michigan's Lakes, Rivers, And Streams?

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The Environmental Integrity Project researchers recommend the EPA update its regulations, enforce those already on the books and allocate more resources and staff to do so. The U.S. Congress passed the federal Clean Water Act in 1972.

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The law promised fishable and swimmable waters no later than 1983, and the elimination of all discharges of pollutants into navigable waters by 1985.

I have to admit I was shocked to see how much of Michigan's water is too polluted for humans and animals. I hope this becomes something Michiganders, companies, and the government take seriously and find meaningful ways to fix the damage that has already been done.

EPA Administrator Regan Tours Flint Community Water Lab
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You can read the full study here

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