The OEC is working hard to influence Ohio’s efforts to reduce harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie. In 2023, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s (OEPA) created a phosphorus “pollution reduction diet” plan for Northwest Ohio’s Maumee River Watershed to reduce the amount of phosphorus runoff into the river, a known root cause of harmful algal blooms.
Known as a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), the Ohio EPA’s pollution plan fails to adequately address the main type of pollutant impairing Lake Erie and, unfortunately, is not an effective tool to address Harmful Algal Blooms. Here’s what you need to know about the TMDL.
The Ohio EPA’s TMDL relies on existing programs and efforts in Ohio — programs that the Alliance for the Great Lakes and the Ohio Environmental Council found in our 2023 report to be woefully inadequate in meeting Ohio’s water quality goals if they aren’t paired with further resources or other actions. By relying on underfunded tools, the Ohio EPA’s TMDL does not ensure that water quality goals will be met.
Furthermore, the TMDL does not meet Clean Water Act requirements. Missing from the pollution diet plan is a primary pollutant driving harmful algal bloom growth: dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP). The approved TMDL must include allocations for DRP.
This point source and nonpoint source nutrient pollution — primarily from farm fertilizer that flows into the Maumee River after it rains — contributes to the “load” of pollution the watershed can take on before too much runoff causes adverse effects in the environment, like harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie.