GREEN BAY - Area agencies say it's time to address the so-called "dead zone" in the waters of Green Bay.
Scientists recently discovered the issue, which are extremely low oxygen levels.
But now, there's a community-wide push to help the waters bounce back.
"Scientists from UWGB and our organization discovered a 'dead zone' in Green Bay, which means there's very little oxygen to support life and that area they've discovered is expanding in size," explained NEW Water Director of Environmental Programs Bill Hafs.
The "dead zone" stretches about eight miles northeast of the city and extends to the Sturgeon Bay area. The lowest oxygen levels are found toward the mouth of the Fox River.
Scientists say a leading cause is phosphorus runoff and other nutrients. Algae eats the phosphorus and dies. And the bacteria created from that sucks up oxygen.
Experts say some of the phosphorus comes from area rivers such as the Oconto and Menominee. However they say the majority, two-thirds to be exact, comes from the Fox River.
"Within the Fox River, most of it coming from above Lake Winnebago, but a significant portion is flowing into the Fox River and into Green Bay from the watersheds," explained UWGB Professor of Natural and Applied Sciences Kevin Fermanich.
And now the Green Bay Metropolitan Sewerage District or NEW Water, along with the DNR, are trying to find the most cost effective ways to address the culprit.
"We get our water from Lake Michigan, and our economy is linked closely to the water so it's important that we clean this up," Hafs said.
It's a push officials call, adaptive management.
"Everyone working together. That means industry, agriculture, that means the waste water treatment facilities, all collaboratively working together to solve that problem," Hafs explained.
Experts say it's still unclear how big of an effect the "dead zone" has had on fish. However, that is something they're looking into.
"Low oxygen does stress the ecosystem and ultimately do stress the fish," Fermanich said.
NEW Water officials hope to have a pilot program in place by next year.
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