New Documentary ‘The Erie Situation’ Looks at Toxic Algae Pollution on the Great Lake

Toxic algae on Lake Erie
A new documentary film considers the problem of toxic algae on Lake Erie. Great Lakes Outreach Media

In 2014, the city of Toledo, Ohio had to go without drinking water for three days. The culprit? The toxic algae that turns Lake Erie green in the summers had contaminated a water plant. 

Now, a new film considers the problem of toxic algae on Lake Erie and what is, and isn’t, being done about it. Today, the producers of The Erie Situation announced that the film is premiering at the Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF) April 3. 

“We’re thrilled to be having our world premiere at such a prestigious festival and to be doing so in the largest city on Lake Erie,” director David J. Ruck said in a press release emailed to EcoWatch. “But it’s important to note that this is more than just a Lake Erie or Midwest issue. Toxic algal blooms are a global issue negatively affecting communities worldwide. We should all be asking whether enough is being done to pull Lake Erie, and hundreds of other waterways, back from the brink.”  

In Lake Erie, the main cause of the toxic algae is agricultural runoff from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, otherwise known as factory farms. While some farmers are making an effort to adapt more environmentally friendly practices, many operations are continuing with business as usual and avoiding regulations. 

The film follows people like Ken Sabin, a Point Place, Ohio boat builder who had to stop spending so much time on the lake when he developed respiratory issues, he believes from the algae. 

“As somebody who grew up on the Great Lakes, I knew I had to make this film,” Ruck said in a statement in 2021. “The health of these ecosystems and of those that inhabit them is an important and compelling story to tell. It’s a story of big interests being allowed to go unchecked with practices that are harming many of us. My hope is that our film makes a difference by helping audiences to better understand these complex issues that very directly impact them and their communities.”

The film is co-produced by Great Lakes Outreach Media and Plastic Oceans International, the nonprofit behind the Trees & Seas Festival

“It’s been incredible working with David to bring the important global issue of water security to the forefront,” Plastic Oceans International CEO Julie Andersen said in a statement. “The project not only expands our efforts to use the power of film and story to educate and influence change, but to also further explore the deeper causes of plastic pollution linked to water security, human health and community impact.”

If you are in Cleveland April 3, the film will screen at 7:25 p.m. Eastern Time at the Allen Theatre. Another screening will take place the next day at 4:50 p.m. It will also be available for streaming in the U.S. from Sunday, April 10 at 11:00 a.m. to April 17 at 11:59 p.m. You can purchase tickets on the festival website. 

“CIFF is thrilled to have The Erie Situation in the upcoming festival – a timely documentary that highlights key players, factors, and figures in a holistic, informational, yet engaging way,” CIFF artistic director Mallory Martin said in the press release. “As clean water issues are unfortunately universal, this film is essential viewing for all, and especially those who call any of the Great Lakes home.” 

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