Essay: Keeping Our Lakes & Rivers Great

In 2015–16, Elizabeth G Fagan wrote the monthly column “Green Talk” for the Ozaukee County News Graphic on behalf of Mequon Nature Preserve. Fagan has been professional writer for more than 30 years. See more “Green Talk” essays.


April 2016

Gull & Geese, 8x12, by Elizabeth G Fagan, lakemichigansleftcoast.com
Gull & Geese, 8×12, by Elizabeth G Fagan

“It was a gamble, but it worked,” recalled Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day. The late Wisconsin governor and United States senator (D) successfully infused the activism of the late 1960s with such environmental issues as unchecked air and water pollution. On April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day, the single voice of 20 million Americans called for increased awareness and policy change. Today Earth Day is observed by over a billion people around the world as a day for environmental advocacy and action.
Water pollution remains a concern in Ozaukee County. Roughly half the county’s acreage is agricultural; crops are regularly treated with fertilizer containing phosphates. With precipitation, resulting agricultural runoff contains large amounts of eroded soil saturated with phosphates. While phosphorus is necessary to plant life, too much flowing into streams, rivers, and lakes creates a highly enriched soup overabundant with algae and other plant life. To address the issue (and others), the USDA created nutrient-management guidelines that prescribe the amount, source, placement, and timing of commercial fertilizers and other soil amendments.

Urban or residential runoff carries fertilizer phosphates, pet waste, oil and gas residues, and other pollutants. To minimize personal polluting, property owners can devise methods of keeping precipitation in place with ponds, rain barrels, and thirsty plant life. They can also tweak landscaping routines to fertilize minimally before light rains and to refrain from fertilizing before summer downpours.


Elizabeth G Fagan is a writer and artist who resides in southeastern Wisconsin—a place she calls Lake Michigan’s Left Coast. She’s endured the curse of being a writer since attending a private arts high school in Connecticut, where the bad habit was encouraged. She also became a photographer at that high school. She spent all the time she could in the school’s darkroom, creating black and white images from film. Alas, as a second bad habit acquired. Fagan is passionate about the natural world and its creatures. She remembers the very first Earth Day.

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April 2016 Green Talk by Elizabeth Fagan
April 2016 Green Talk by Elizabeth Fagan
Art, content, photography, lakemichigansleftcoast.com, Lake Michigan’s Left Coast © 2015–2019 Elizabeth G Fagan. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
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