Ohio ap­proves blue­print to cut Lake Erie’s al­gae

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - JOHN SEEWER

Ohio’s blue­print for com­bat­ing the al­gae in Lake Erie that has be­come a threat to drink­ing wa­ter calls for tar­get­ing spe­cific wa­ter­sheds and de­vel­op­ing a mon­i­tor­ing net­work within the next year.

The strat­egy — first re­leased last May and fi­nal­ized just this past week — out­lines how Ohio plans to reach its goal of sharply cut­ting the phos­pho­rus run-off feed­ing the al­gae.

The al­gae blooms in re­cent years have con­tam­i­nated drink­ing wa­ter sup­plies, turned the wa­ters an un­sightly shade of green and con­trib­uted to oxy­gen-de­prived dead zones where fish can’t sur­vive.

Ohio, Michi­gan and On­tario signed a deal in 2015 to make a 40 per cent re­duc­tion over the next decade. It lay out sev­eral steps for state agencies to take within the next year:

TOP TAR­GETS: The state’s En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency will look at iden­ti­fy­ing pri­or­ity wa­ter­sheds that are prone to run-off around the lake’s west­ern end, where it can make the big­gest im­pact re­duc­ing the flow of phos­pho­rus. The plan says fo­cus­ing on th­ese ar­eas will help the state see re­duc­tions more quickly, but it doesn’t mean that work to im­prove wa­ter qual­ity in other ar­eas should be ne­glected.

MORE MON­I­TOR­ING: Within the next 12 months, the state EPA will cre­ate a wa­ter qual­ity mon­i­tor­ing net­work that tracks how much progress is be­ing made to­ward reach­ing the 40 per cent re­duc­tion. It also will work with sur­round­ing states and On­tario to make sure the same sam­pling and lab meth­ods are be­ing used and that there’s a con­sis­tent method of col­lect­ing and re­port­ing in­for­ma­tion. In­creased mon­i­tor­ing will al­low the over­all plan to evolve over the next decade, so that what’s be­ing done is most ef­fec­tive.

WASTE­WATER PLANTS: While sci­en­tists say fer­til­iz­ers and live­stock ma­nure from farms are the main sources of the phos­pho­rus prob­lem, sewage from treat­ment plants and leak­ing sep­tic tanks play a role, too. The state EPA will be­gin try­ing to find ways to re­duce how much phos­pho­rus is re­leased into rivers and streams by small waste­water plants that don’t have a per­mit limit for those dis­charges.

FARM­ERS’ ROLE: Ohio’s plan re­lies on con­vinc­ing farm­ers to make changes to prac­tices they’ve used for years, such as no longer spread­ing ma­nure on soaked fields and en­cour­ag­ing them to use the right amount of fer­til­izer. En­vi­ron­men­tal groups and re­searchers con­tend more needs to be done to make a big dent in the phos­pho­rus run-off.

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