Saginaw Bay Muck Problem Continues, Contains Human and Bovine Fecal Matter

The main three environmental problems in the Saginaw Bay are muck, muck and muck.

BY: Lindsay Knake, News

KOCHVILLE TWP. — The main three environmental problems in the Saginaw Bay are “muck, muck and muck.”

That is according to Craig Stow, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research scientist.

Muck has been swamping the coastlines and beaches of the Saginaw Bay since the 1970s, Stow said at the 2012 Saginaw Bay Watershed Conference.

Marc Werhougstraete, a Michigan State University Department of Fisheries and Wildlife research assistant, said muck means sewage and fecal matter are likely present in the area.

Muck is composed of different types of algae, macrophytes and decomposing unidentifiable organic matter that varies from season to season in no particular trend, Stow said.

"If we want to understand these things well, we need adequate, long-term and consistent monitoring," Stow said.

Phosphorus, which industries release into the Saginaw Bay Watershed, and mussels are variables in the level of muck in the bay, he said. Algae is phosphorus limited, which means more phosphorus makes it grow.

The bay's environment provides the moisture content and stability to grow bacteria, Werhougstraete said. Windy days and high waves causes the pathogens, such as salmonella, to leave the muck and get into the shallow water of the bay.

In research he conducted at the Bay City State Recreation Area, he found both human and bovine feces in the muck.

Goose poop isn't as much of a problem because they eat grass almost all day. Seagulls are the problem, Werhougstraete said.

To reduce risk of contracting illness, he said, avoid contact with muck, wash hands when in contact with it and do not submerge your head in the water.

Common muck management, such as raking, also can release the pathogens from the muck. People cleaning beaches should do so in the morning, when the beaches are less busy and the sun can kill bacteria, Werhougstraete said.

To prevent further contamination, cities and residents need sewage system upgrades, parks should conduct routine maintenance of onsite sewage systems and people should not feed gulls and wildlife.

Read more from the Saginaw Bay Watershed Conference.

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