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Macomb County, Army Corps will team up to study Lake St. Clair muck

Lyngbya at a Lake St. Clair boat launch in March 2023.
Macomb County
Lyngbya at a Lake St. Clair boat launch in March 2023.

Macomb County will work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to study why a mucky, unpleasant substance is a growing problem in Lake Saint Clair.

The muck is actually type of cyanobacteria called lyngbya, which can congeal into dense mats on the water’s surface. It’s become more pervasive on Lake St. Clair over the past ten years, and is a particular problem for boaters, swimmers, and lakefront homeowners.

Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller said it’s not clear whether the foul-smelling muck has damaging ecosystem and health impacts, but that’s something the study will examine. “This is a new type of thing, and it's obviously being fed organically by something,” Miller said. And so we need to figure it out.”

Macomb County Commissioner Barbara Zinner called the substance “a monster,” especially for people living on the lakefront.

“It’s really changing our lifestyles,” Zinner said. “It's changing property values. It's changing the fact that children can't just go out from their homes and jump in the water.”

The two-year, $400,000 study will examine whether causes could include climate change, invasive species, or sewer overflows. The county will work with the Army Corps to identify lyngbya hotspots, and conditions that cause it to flourish. They also hope to come up with a lakewide management plan.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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