Representatives from the state told an audience Monday at the the building up along the Lake St. Clair shoreline is caused by algae and is being found throughout the Great Lakes region.
The findings were issued in a report by the Department of Environmental Quality, which studied the buildup after residents north of contacted city officials and State Rep. Anthony Forlini, R-Harrison Township, about the growth of the organic matter from their seawalls.
DEQ personnel visited the waterfront twice to study the muck, which extends nearly 15 feet into the lake in some areas and contained trash along with dead fish, and inspected other areas along Lake St. Clair where algae was discovered.
"This is a vitally important resource," said Forlini, to the more than 50 residents, city and county officials who who attended the meeting. "We need to take this evidence and use it to our adavantage … we need to take it step by step."
State officials determined the muck was comprised of a build-up of bluegreen algae which is naturally occurring, but may be exacerbated in Lake St. Clair due to zebra mussels, storm water runoff and municipal wastewater discharge. Shoreline structures and peninsulas—such as Veterans Memorial Beach—also helped catch the muck.
Similar buildup has been found along the shoreline, and along the lakebed, throughout the Great Lakes region, according to Shannon Briggs, DEQ water toxicologist.
"It has been growing in places it hasn't been growing before," she added.
She added that the issue is being investigated by a number of universities in the Great Lakes region, and there will not be "one answer, there is not one solution because the Great Lakes are so dynamic."
Mike Gutow, who has led the effort to remove the muck, attended the meeting and was pleased with the in-depth discussion about the buildup.
"(The meeting) is bringing more attention to what is going on," said Gutow, who now has nearly four feet of solid buildup along his seawall. "They answered a lot of questions to what is happening, but I wanted to know what is being done for cleanup."
While it wasn't specifically addressed, Briggs said homeowners can remove the muck by hands, rakes or shovels. If mechanical means are used, then a permit must be pulled.
Doug Martz, the former chairman of the Macomb County Water Quality Board, said the muck reminded him of a similar buildup 1994.
"It is too much nutrients," said Martz, who believes the runoff from the spring rains and over 3.6 billion gallons of treated and untreated discharges led to the growth.