Currents | July 2023

Did you know that the Great Lakes are the biggest freshwater source in the world? Lake Erie is the most productive for fishing of all the Great Lakes. Your support helps make our streams clean, clear and healthy so they can support this complex ecosystem. By donating to PCS, you help us reach our goals of restoring rivers that lead to Lake Erie beaches that promote fishable and swimmable conditions for generations.

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July 2023

Three images side-by-side of volunteers working with water quality monitoring equipment.Thanks to a grant last year from Greater Toledo Community Foundation, we kicked off a multi-agency program called Community Water Action in Toledo (CWAT) that is streamlining volunteer water quality monitoring in our region of the Lake Erie basin. Monitoring season started in April and will continue through October. Learn what volunteers have accomplished so far.

The CWAT program allows us to sync up partner organizations’ (Metroparks Toledo, TMACOG, Toledo Zoo, and Toledo Rotary) water monitoring programs by sharing training resources, engaging in volunteer outreach, aligning sampling protocols, and evaluating program success. Kat Kieffer, our Water Monitoring Coordinator Intern, works at the nexus of CWAT’s partnerships.

“Aligning sampling protocols” means making sure different groups all use the same water sampling tools and the same process, standardizing data collection to share it not only across our region, but with other groups around Lake Erie. Our program uses a set of standards called the Lake Erie Baseline Assessment Framework (LEBAF), developed by the Lake Erie Volunteer Science Network, led by Cleveland Water Alliance.

CWAT partners use a type of probe called “YSI Pro DSS.”  They measure conductivity, pH, water temperature, and dissolved oxygen. Erie Soil and Water Conservation District, the organization who mentored our staff in creating sampling protocols, described these metrics as taking the vital signs of the waterways, like a patient in triage at an emergency room. These are the baseline parameters for the health of the waterways; they indicate the types of organisms that can survive in our water.

Sampling kicked off in April with three training days for staff from TMACOG, Metroparks Toledo, and the Toledo Zoo. CWAT partners sample 20 sites in all: 9 on Swan Creek, 5 on the Ottawa River, and 7 on the Maumee River. Since April, all sites have been successfully sampled at least once a month. While partner coordination continues to evolve, CWAT is off to a strong start!

Get the Lead Out volunteers post on Blue Grass Island during a clean-up in August 2022.Sign-up for our upcoming programs, including Get the Lead Out and Clean Your Streams 365. Volunteer opportunities are on our website calendar and listed below.

Thursday July 13, 6:30pm-8:30pm
Get the Lead Out – Blue Grass Island
Remove fishing debris including lead sinkers, broken line, and lures, from the Maumee River, beginning at Side Cut Metropark. Learn more and register:

Sunday July 16, 2:30pm-4:30pm
Clean Your Streams 365 – Cullen Park
Keep our waterways clean, clear, and safe by removing marine debris during this clean-up.
Learn more and register:

Sunday July 23, 2:00pm-4:30pm
Get the Lead Out – Weirs Rapids
Remove fishing debris including lead sinkers, broken line, and lures, from the Maumee River, beginning at Weirs Rapids Fishing Access. Learn more and register:

Image of a Lake Erie dock with green algae on the beach.Algae is a normal and necessary component of Lake Erie’s aquatic food web. However, harmful algal blooms occur when algae grows out of control, producing negative effects for both wildlife and humans. What causes these events, and how can each of us be part of the solution?

Algae is a microscopic plant. Its growth naturally increases in the warmer summer months. However, human impacts are enhancing the growth of certain strains of algae beyond ecologically healthy levels. These impacts include nutrient runoff, including the nutrients found in fertilizer and manure, as well as habitat alteration, such as the removal of natural wetlands and increased erosion near streams. 

What’s the result of these impacts? They can cause the natural process of eutrophication to speed up. Eutrophication causes algae growth to explode. Algae typically have a very fast life cycle, and when this life cycle is accelerated even more, it causes problems for water quality and aquatic life, primarily by depleting oxygen from the water. This phenomenon, known as hypoxia, results in oxygen levels becoming so low that the water can no longer support aquatic life. At worst, the end result can be an ecological “dead zone” that does not support fish or their food webs.

Fortunately, our part of Lake Erie hasn’t yet experienced widespread hypoxia. Instead, algae’s main impact on our region is from beach closures and worries about water quality. You can use Beach Guard, a service provided by the Ohio Department of Health, to determine the safety status of swimming at Lake Erie beaches.

Although harmful algal blooms are a large-scale problem that are being addressed by large-scale actions, individuals can also play a part in the solution. We’ve been running a series on Water-Friendly Lawn Care (Part 1, Part 2) as well as the positive impact of reducing pet and waterfowl poo where you can learn more about steps to take. A little effort by individuals can go a long way when done collectively!

A group of ZOOTeens volunteers pose after a rainy Clean Your Streams Day.Almost every year, Toledo ZOOTeens rank among the winners of Clean Your Streams Youth Challenge Awards, but their partnership extends beyond September. ZOOTeens are frequent volunteers on Get the Lead Out clean-ups and spend winter cleaning Reel in and Recycle fishing line.

The Toledo Zoo’s ZOOTeen program offers volunteer opportunities to students ages 13-17 who are interested in education, animal science, and conservation. In addition to helping out at the Zoo both with public-facing education stations and behind-the-scenes animal enrichment, ZOOTeens participate in off-grounds community service and conservation projects.

The ZOOTeens have been involved with Clean Your Streams Day since the 4th Annual CYS in 2001. That means they’ve been doing CYS longer than Partners for Clean Streams has officially existed! (PCS was founded in 2006.) Over the past 20 years, the ZOOTeens have participated in Youth Patch Day, as “Green Team” recycling crew members at the Mercy Health Glass City Marathon, and at Get the Lead Out and Clean Your Streams 365 clean-ups. One critical role ZOOTeens play is to clean dirty fishing line collected in Reel in and Recycle bins and at Get the Lead Out clean-ups. Their hard work allows us to send this fishing line to be recycled.

Bill Davis, Volunteer Manager at the Toledo Zoo and lead coordinator of the ZOOTeen program, was the 2018 recipient of the Partners for Clean Streams Environmental Stewardship and Involvement Award. He had this to share:

“The Toledo ZOOTeen Program is privileged to be able to engage in service opportunities outside of the Zoo. We are pleased to partner with multiple community organizations, supporting the environment, animal welfare, and basic human needs. These initiatives are important, not only because people, animals, and the environment are inextricably connected, but because these projects provide invaluable opportunities for the ZOOTeens to learn more about their communities and the world in which they live. The teens are able to become active citizens in their community.”

Bill told us that Clean Your Streams Day is the oldest recurring community partner program in which the ZOOTeens have been involved. We are so grateful for this longstanding relationship and look forward to what the future will bring!

Partners for Clean Streams Inc. is striving for abundant open space and a high quality natural environment; adequate floodwater storage capacities and flourishing wildlife; stakeholders who take local ownership in their resources; and rivers, streams and lakes that are clean, clear and safe