Musician pedals around Lake Superior
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The pollution of our waterways became a national issue in June of 1969, the day that the Cuyahoga River, flowing through Cleveland, Ohio, on its way to Lake Erie, caught on fire because it was so polluted. Although this was not the first time that the Cuyahoga River had been in flames, the 1969 fire caught the attention of the nation and the fight began for increased water pollution controls, which eventually led to the Great Lakes Water Quality Act and Clean Water Act in the 1970s.
Water pollution is defined as a change in the chemical, physical and biological health of a waterway due to human activity. Ways that humans have affected the quality of the Great Lakes water over the centuries include sewage disposal, toxic contamination through heavy metals and pesticides, overdevelopment of the water's edge, runoff from agriculture and urbanization, and air pollution.
Graphic: Fire on the Cuyahoga River, November 3, 1952.