David Miller, July 13, 2017
Gibraltar Island, OH — Today, NOAA released their final forecast for the summer’s algal bloom in the western Lake Erie basin this year, which typically lasts from July through mid-October. The forecast was announced this morning at a briefing at Ohio Sea Grant’s Stone Laboratory on Gibraltar Island in Lake Erie. The forecast indicated a severe algal bloom, raising concerns for the health of the lake, and those communities who depend on Lake Erie for drinking water, tourism, fishing, or other recreational activities.
“Harmful and toxic algal blooms in western Lake Erie have contaminated drinking water, closed beaches, and hurt our fishing and tourism industries.” said Charlotte Jameson, government affairs director for Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “NOAA’s forecast reminds us that Lake Erie’s algae problem has not gone away and that we can’t just hope for dry springs as a solution. Unfortunately, Michigan seems to be determined to do just that, missing every opportunity to craft a plan that stands a chance at bringing this Great Lake back to health.”
The severity and frequency of the blooms led to a regional agreement between U.S. governors in Ohio, Michigan and the Canadian Premier of Ontario to reduce the amount of phosphorus flowing into the lake by 40 percent by 2025. Phosphorus is the main nutrient fueling the growth toxic algae, and the largest source comes from industrial farms when rains and spring thaw wash excess manure and fertilizers into local streams and rivers that feed the lake.
“With a bloom of this size and scale expected, it is clear that this problem can only be addressed at the source,” said Nicholas Mandros, northwest Ohio regional coordinator with the Ohio Environmental Council. “Toxic algae is primarily caused by agricultural runoff, and Ohio’s voluntary approach simply isn’t enough to curb the the algae-causing pollution flowing into Lake Erie.”
To protect our drinking water and ensure safe, clean beaches and waterways, it is necessary to achieve significant reductions in agricultural pollution, the main cause of harmful algal blooms. Many farmers are working to curb algae-causing pollution, but for their efforts to be successful more farmers need to be part of the solution. This requires broad scale adoption of conservation practices, and stopping the excess application of manure and fertilizer.
“The governments of Canada and the United States, along with Michigan, Ohio and Ontario need to do much more to solve the problem,” said Nancy Goucher, Manager of Partnerships with Freshwater Future. “We’re likely to continue to see devastating impacts without concerted effort by all Lake Erie jurisdictions to curb runoff pollution.”
“The annual algal forecast signifies the beginning of another season of Lake Erie algal blooms that impact a critical ecosystem important for the outdoor economy of boating, fishing and tourism as well as a drinking water source for millions of people, said Gail Hesse, Great Lakes Water Program Director for the National Wildlife Federation. “This year’s forecast further highlights the urgency for concrete actions to reduce phosphorus loading. We need all state, provincial and federal governments and stakeholders on both sides of the border to offer solutions to meet the binational 40% phosphorus reduction goal adopted as part of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.”
“Today’s forecast for this summer’s Lake Erie algal bloom is not good news for communities around the lake. We know that reducing agricultural runoff pollution, the main cause of the algal blooms, will take an all hands on deck effort by Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario,” said Crystal Davis, Policy Director for Alliance for the Great Lakes. “The jurisdictions have each failed so far to provide plans detailing specific, meaningful tactics to limit the flow of pollution into the lake. The lack of action is putting public health and drinking water at risk for millions of Americans and Canadians.”