A history of potential events as chronicled by Steven Coburn-Griffis

Chapter Four

Friday, March 16, 2018

The camera closed in on Bart Butterman’s patented Smartt tie until that was all anybody in Ms. Raczkowski’s 7th Grade Earth Sciences class could see on the big Smartt screen. A bright point of light appeared on the tie. The point of light zipped up and over and down, zigging and zagging this way and that until there was an outline of the State of Ohio. Within the outline, three dark blue stars appeared: a big star up at the top of the state and two smaller stars; one a little less than halfway down and on the left side of the outline, and the other almost smack dab in the center.

Suddenly, the big star at the top of the state swung open and a cartoon Bart Butterman pushed his head through the opening.

“This big star right here is Lake Erie,” the cartoon host said, smacking at the swinging star with his cartoon hand, then pointed to the smaller star closest to him. “That smaller star right there is Grand Lake St. Marys and over there,” he continued, pointing to the star nearly in the center of the state, “is Buckeye Lake. All three have been affected by cyanobacteria. And there are other places, too.”

As the cartoon Bart Butterman talked, little blue dots began to speckle the inside of the outline. Most of the dots appeared on the left side of the outline and from the center on up to the top.

“But what is cyanobacteria?” cartoon Bart Butterman asked. “Well, it’s a big word for a little organism that’s creating massive problems for a whole lot of people.”

As cartoon Bart Butterman spoke, the outline of the state collapsed until it was a simple circle. The stars disappeared and the blue dots formed into long chains until it looked like someone had dropped pieces of stiff, pebbly string onto a plate.

“Cyano means, ‘related to the color blue’ and bacteria.. .well, that gets a little more complicated,” cartoon Bart Butterman continued. “Bacteria aren’t plants and they aren’t animals, they belong in a class all by themselves. And they’re small. Almost all are microscopic, too small for the human eye to see without help. Anyway, when you put the two parts of the word together, you get blue bacteria. And they’re called cyanobacteria because, when there are enough of them together so that they’re visible, they have a kind of blue-green color.”

Bart Butterman’s Smartt tie suddenly went blank. On the big Smartt screen in Ms. Raczkowski’s class, Bart Butterman stood once again beside the fountain. Except, where before the water was clean and clear, now it was almost entirely covered with what looked like a mat of blue-green scum.

Bart Butterman pulled on a pair of long rubber gloves. He picked up the glass he had drunk from earlier and dipped it into the fountain. He held up the glass of blue-green goo and swirled it around a bit.

“And when there are so many cyanobacteria together that they cover the surface of the water and reach down below the surface, they call that a ‘bloom,’’’ Bart Butterman said “And where there’s a bloom, you’ve got trouble.”

Chapter Four questions

1. During the I960s, water quality issues in the Great Lakes became a concern and Lake Erie was perceived to be “dying”. By the late 1960s, Canadian and American regulatory agencies were in agreement that limiting phosphorus loads was the key to keeping algal growth under control. Yet in 2014, the City of Toledo, one of the biggest ports in the Great Lakes, was without safe drinking water because of harmful algal bloom. Why do you think that we are still having problems taking care of Lake Erie nearly 50 years later?

2. Bart talked about blue-green algae in lakes, a fountain and in his water glass, but not in a river or stream. What are the differences in the water in a lake compared to a river? How might these differences cause blue-green algae to be in one but not the other? How do the different types of water bodies effect each other?

3. Bart put on rubber gloves to fill his water glass from the fountain? Why? What kinds of things do you do every day to protect your health as well as the health of others?

Chapter Four vocabulary

Grand Lake St. Marys

Buckeye Lake