Ohio Environmental Council, August 6, 2014
Our thoughts are with all of the Toledo area residents who woke up to the horrible news this morning that they cannot use their tap water because it is toxic. Today’s drinking water crisis is a loud wake-up call not just for the city, but also for the nation. High levels of a dangerous toxin, microcystin, caused by algal blooms in Lake Erie have compromised the City of Toledo’s drinking water.
More than just a nuisance, the toxic algal blooms plaguing Lake Erie and fueled by excess nutrient pollution threaten approximately 11 million people that draw their drinking water from the lake. While nutrient pollution comes from many sources, only a few – farm fields and sewage treatment plants – contribute the lion’s share of the problem.
These blooms rival the blooms in Lake Erie from the 1970’s that sparked the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and the Clean Water Act, which regulate wastewater treatment plants, industries, and banned phosphorus in laundry detergents. As a result, Lake Erie recovered.
It is unacceptable that nutrient pollution has been allowed to pollute Lake Erie so significantly that the drinking water for more than 500,000 northwestern Ohio residents has been compromised. In the wake of this crisis, federal and state agencies will have an opportunity to act to stem the flow of nutrients into Lake Erie. We urge agencies to learn from this crisis and act swiftly.
A great place to start is enacting the recommendations put forth by the International Joint Commission in their report released this spring, “A Balanced Diet for Lake Erie: Reducing Phosphorus Loadings and Harmful Algal Blooms.” Delaying action will only cause continued harm to the lake and more crises like the one Toledo is facing today.
Read our recommendations for addressing toxic algal blooms.
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