Groups Call on State of Ohio to Protect Lake Erie Drinking Water, Prevent Algal Blooms
Ohio Environmental Council, August 30, 2016
Environmental and conservation groups are again calling for the designation of all western Lake Erie as officially “impaired” in order to restore the lake and prevent toxic algae from continuing to threaten drinking water sources for the cities of Toledo and Oregon.
The Clean Water Act requires Ohio to take a close look at all of the state’s rivers, streams and lakes to determine if they are clean enough to provide safe drinking water, fishing, and swimming. If they do not, they are required to be listed as “impaired,” followed with a plan that sets pollution limits and detailed actions to meet them. Ohio EPA released its draft list of impaired waters for public comments with an August 29 deadline – five months past the federal deadline of April 1st.
Instead of looking at the entire western basin within Ohio’s borders, Ohio EPA only evaluated and gave the impairment designation to Lake Erie’s shorelines and included the drinking water intake area for Toledo and Oregon. The agency said it does not plan to analyze the rest of Ohio’s portion of the lake, instead saying the US EPA in Chicago should.
“Ohio’s disjointed approach makes no sense,” said Adam Rissien, Director of Clean Water at the Ohio Environmental Council. “Restoring water quality along the shorelines doesn’t fix the problem three miles out.”
“It’s past time to take serious action to address toxic algae in Lake Erie,” said Molly M. Flanagan, Vice President of Policy at the Alliance for the Great Lakes. “Millions of Ohioans depend on Lake Erie for their drinking water and their livelihood. We cannot afford to keep kicking this can down the road.”
“Ohio EPA missed an opportunity to stand up for Lake Erie,” said said Gail Hesse, director of Great Lakes water program at the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center. “The state of Ohio needs to use all of the tools at its disposal, including the Clean Water Act, to address water quality impairment and the actions needed to provide clean, safe drinking water.”
“Lake Erie needs the federal framework in the Clean Water Act to bring all stakeholders together to agree on harmful algae sources and amounts, followed by an Implementation Plan that provides annual reports which contain what is being reduced and where,” says Sandy Bihn from Lake Erie Waterkeeper and Lake Erie Improvement Association.
Among the groups calling on the Ohio EPA to designate all of western Lake Erie as “Impaired” are the Ohio Environmental Council, the Alliance for the Great Lakes, National Wildlife Federation, Freshwater Future, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club, Lake Erie Waterkeeper and the Lake Erie Improvement Association.