Ohio Environmental Council, March 23, 2017
Lucas County, OH – Each Summer, Lake Erie is at risk from slimy mats of toxic algae. The main culprit behind these toxic green blobs is runoff pollution from large-scale industrial agriculture. Today, Lucas County Commissioners, Toledo City Council, local Toledo residents and the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) gathered at Side Cut Metropark to urge immediate action from the state to fix this annual threat to Lake Erie and the communities that depend on it.
In August of 2014, a massive bloom of toxic algae in Lake Erie contaminated drinking water in the Toledo area. Almost a half a million people were without clean drinking water for nearly three days. In order to prevent another event like this and restore the health of Lake Erie, the OEC, Board of Lucas County Commissioners, and Toledo City Council are calling on state lawmakers to take bold action to restore the lake and ensure safe, clean drinking water for area families.
Unchecked agricultural pollution remains a serious problem and there are few safeguards on the books that adequately address this. Toxic algae will continue to plague Lake Erie and threaten people’s drinking water until we get serious about addressing unchecked agricultural run-off pollution.
Nick Mandros, Northwest Ohio Coordinator for the OEC, is working with regional NGOs, foundations, and researchers on Lake Erie water quality issues. The OEC communicates directly with policymakers at all levels of government to convey the importance of addressing these challenges.
“In the face of the current Federal Administration’s policy changes, it is now more important than ever that that Ohio Lawmakers look out for the health and wellbeing of Ohioans and work to find a real, long-term, bipartisan solutions to toxic algae in Lake Erie” Mandros said. “We know agriculture is the leading source of algae-causing pollution and we need real safeguards on the books to address it.”
Yesterday, the Board of Lucas County Commissioners and Toledo City Council passed resolutions calling for increased action from the state to assist in preventing toxic algae from occurring every summer in Lake Erie.
“Protecting our drinking water and restoring the health of Lake Erie is our highest priority” said Lucas County Commissioner Carol Contrada. “As a part of World Water Day, the Board of Lucas County Commissioners urges the Ohio General Assembly to implement measurable standards of nutrients entering the waterways of the Western Lake Erie Basin in order to meet the goal of a 40% phosphorus reduction by 2025.”
The heart of the resolution calls for commonsense safeguards that effectively curb algae causing pollution by ensuring farmers adopt conservation practices and use the right amount of fertilizer and manure. The resolutions also call for improving compliance, and establishing limits on the amount of algae-causing pollution allowed in Ohio’s streams.
“Urban residents are often most vulnerable. They also represent the communities that will be hit hardest by climate change and algal blooms, placing them on the front lines of the scramble to adapt and mitigate its impacts” said Toledo resident, Keith Jordan. “Ohio lawmakers must take immediate action to ensure the health and safety of area residents.”
The OEC has been working with state agencies, business, and community leaders on this issue for a number of years. The OEC’s Director of Clean Water, Adam Rissien, believes these solutions are not only imperative to keeping our lake and drinking water safe, but that the solutions are also developed to keep the farmers in mind.
“These solutions will level the playing field for all the farmers working hard to be part of the solution so they don’t carry the weight of the bad actors,” said Rissien. “This is as much about fairness as it is protecting Lake Erie.”