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About Ohio EPA’s “Pollution Diet” or Total Maximum Daily Load Plan for the Maumee River Watershed

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.

Ohio EPA’s “Pollution Diet” misses the mark for Maumee River Watershed

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.

Key Facts to Know: Ohio EPA’s Total Maximum Daily Load Plan

  • A Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) is essentially a “pollution diet” written to meet water quality targets. 
  • The Maumee River is the main tributary that empties into the Western Basin of Lake Erie (WLEB).
    • This section of Lake Erie is prone to seasonal harmful algal blooms (HABs) that threaten the health of people, wildlife, and the environment, including the polluting of drinking water sources, recreational opportunities, and the local economy.
  • On September 28, 2023 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) approved the Ohio EPA’s proposed TMDL for the Maumee River Watershed.
    • The Ohio EPA was required to develop this TMDL as a result of a recent consent decree spawned by a lawsuit filed by the Environmental Law and Policy Center.
  • In 2015, Ohio and Michigan committed to reduce phosphorus by 40% by 2025.
  • A 2023 report by the Alliance for the Great Lakes and the OEC found that current efforts in Ohio and Michigan aimed at reducing phosphorus runoff from agricultural lands are woefully inadequate.
    • Michigan and Ohio would need to both increase adoption of conservation practices and increase spending on those practices by $40-65 million and $170-250 million annually, respectively, to meet water quality objectives in the Western Basin of Lake Erie.

More Information About the Total Maximum Daily Load Plan




  • Alliance for the Great Lakes (AGL):

Web Page: AGL Lake Erie Harmful Algal Bloom Campaign