By Sarah Pistella
Gannon University Student
The Presque Isle Bay Public Advisory Committee (PIBPC) is comprised of about 30 volunteers, ranging from ordinary citizens who want to make a difference to those from scientific and mathematical backgrounds. Jim Rutkowski, chairman for this committee, explains that Lake Erie was the only lake that was declared an area of concern because of public outcry rather than being declared by members of the department of environmental protection. This committee is made up of people who care about the community and what their great lake brings to them.
Issues that the lake faces range from ordinary pollution such as storm water runoff to fish tumors and blue green algae. Fish tumors lead to birth defects in fish and highly male populated communities that cannot repopulate. Blue green algae give off toxins that can make the public sick if they swallow the water in the lake.
When the committee was first created in 1983, it did not see progress for the first two years, but with patience and hard work, the committee saw change after they were added as an area of concern. After this time they received money from the government to restore the lake to its former glory. Since then, the committee has reached one of its goals of having the lake delisted as an area of concern. Although this is good news, the committee still faces problems as a result of the delisting process. Now the committee does not receive as much money from the government and the money that they do receive must be put towards certain issues.
To inform the public, PIBPAC holds press meetings where local news reporters are in attendance. Anna McCartney from NIE also informs the public about these issues every Tuesday and updates the public on what the committee is doing. PA Sea Grant also informs the public through the Newspapers in Education page in the Erie Times-News. The committee also contacts local politicians to inform them about their concerns and invites them to meetings in hopes of gaining their support.
Despite the obstacles that these caring and hardworking volunteer face, PIBPAC has helped Lake Erie shed the image that Dr. Seuss portrayed in The Lorax:
"They'll walk on their fins and get woefully weary in search of some water that isn't so smeary. I hear things are just as bad up in Lake Erie."
This organization has led Erie to shed that image and helped it gain that of a boating, fishing, and vacationing getaway. This committee shows what Erie truly is, and that is a strong and caring community that proves that even the most difficult problems can be solved by teamwork, dedication, and genuine care.