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OEC praises Ohio Senate Republicans’ swift action to protect Lake Erie from toxic algae

Ohio Environmental Council, January 28, 2015

Gardner previews prompt hearings next month to clamp down on nutrient runoff

The Ohio Environmental Council is praising today’s announcement by Ohio Senate Republican leaders, led by Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina), to fast track legislation to attack the flow of the nutrients that feed toxic algae blooms in the western basin of Lake Erie.

Senator Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green), sponsor of the forthcoming bill, pledged at a Statehouse press conference today a pair of hearings next week followed by an expected vote by the full Senate on the as-yet-to-be-introduced legislation in February. He called it an “enhanced” version of legislation (House Bill 490) considered in the waning weeks of the legislature’s lame-duck session which ended last month.

The OEC expects the bill to include these key features:

  • a ban on the application of fertilizer and livestock manure to frozen and snow covered ground in the western basin of Lake Erie;
  • a ban on the open lake disposal of sediments dredged from ports and harbors in Lake Erie or its direct tributaries;
  • regular monitoring and reporting of phosphorous levels by large, public water treatment systems.

“A big tip of the hat to Senator Gardner for moving Lake Erie protection to the top of the Senate’s work order in 2015, ” said Jack Shaner, Deputy Director of the Ohio Environmental Council.

“This is just the sort of medicine that Lake Erie and our inland lakes need for the toxic algae menace that annually ail them.”

Phosphorus and nitrogen, which are naturally present in livestock manure and in commercial fertilizers, are well recognized by scientists and government regulators as a prime source of nutrient pollution that feed the growth of toxic algae. The nutrients also can be redistributed in the water column when harbor dredgings are disposed in the open waters just off shore of Toledo and other ports that dot the Great Lakes.

A 2012 report of the Ohio Department of Agriculture indentified various sources of nutrient pollution, including farm field runoff. Among the report’s recommendation is one (see p. 45 of the report) to not spread nutrients on frozen or snow-covered ground.

“Ohio needs to go all out to protect our Great Lake — and all of our inland lakes — and the million people that rely upon it for drinking water as well as the $1 billion sport-fishing industry that it supports,

“This legislation is one of several actions that lawmakers need to take. But it is a fundamental first step. We thank Senator Gardner and the Senate majority or helping make it a top Statehouse priority this year,” said Shaner.