Nor Any Drop to Drink?: Why the Great Lakes Face a Murky Future

Read the full piece in the New York Times Book Review.

And so it came as a revelation to me to read Dan Egan’s deeply researched and sharply written “The Death and Life of the Great Lakes.” Dipping into this book was like opening the secret diary of a mercurial and mysterious parent. I learned that the reason the lake had become so clear was that it had been invaded by a dastardly pair of bivalves — the zebra and quagga mussels — which had hitched a ride on a shipping barge from either the Black or Caspian Seas and then quietly but ceaselessly colonized the lake. They set about cleaning up the water with hyperactive single-mindedness, eventually sucking up 90 percent of the lake’s phytoplankton. The water is now three times clearer than it was in the 1980s. But “this is not the sign of a healthy lake,” Egan warns. “It’s the sign of a lake having the life sucked out of it.” Since the Great Lakes are essentially “one giant, slow-motion river,” the mussels have since spread to every one of the Great Lakes, proliferating “like cancer cells in a bloodstream.”

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