This was an example in which the results of basic research could be put to immediate application.
In the 1950s, UW researchers observed a decline in water quality in Lake Washington and tied it to the pollution generated by Seattle’s growing suburbs. Their research results led to public initiatives to clean up the lake and returned Lake Washington to a thriving and healthy ecosystem.
Cloudy, dirty, smelly: in the middle of the 1950s, the Seattle region’s Lake Washington had a giant pollution problem. The city of Seattle had dumped raw sewage into the lake for decades. Even though that ended in the early 1940s, runoff from the booming growth of the Eastside suburbs after World War II made the pollution problem even worse. In 1955, the Washington Pollution Control Commission issued a bulletin that made the crisis official.
This wasn’t news to recent UW PhD graduate George Anderson. He had noticed that Lake Washington was an unusual color and took a sample of the lake water that revealed the presence of blue-green algae, a common sign of lake deterioration. Working with his former academic adviser, zoologist W. Thomas Edmondson, Andrerson began researching how to clean up the lake as a postdoctoral researcher at UW.