Lake Erie cleanup fall­ing short of goal

Dayton Daily News - - LOCAL & STATE - By James F. McCarty

Ap­proach­ing CLEVE­LAND — the end of another sum­mer marked by a sub­stan­tial al­gal bloom in Lake Erie’s western basin, en­vi­ron­men­tal and con­ser­va­tion groups re­leased sep­a­rate re­ports Tues­day that came to the same con­clu­sion:

Ohio, Michi­gan and On­tario are fall­ing far short in their ef­forts to re­duce and elim­i­nate the sea­sonal men­ace.

“The longer we wait to start putting al­gae-caus­ing, pol­lu­tion-re­duc­tion mea­sures into prac­tice, the worse the prob­lems will be­come,” said Kristy Meyer, vice pres­i­dent of pol­icy for the Ohio En­vi­ron­men­tal Coun­cil.

Meyer was re­spond­ing to a new re­port re­leased Tues­day, “Res­cu­ing Lake Erie: An As­sess­ment of Progress,” that ex­am­ines how Ohio, Michi­gan and On­tario are re­spond­ing to the goals of the Great Lakes Wa­ter Qual­ity Agree­ment they signed two years ago.

The agree­ment com­mit­ted the states and Cana­dian prov­ince to re­duce phos­pho­rus dis­charges by 40 per­cent be­tween 2015 and 2025. In 2008, Ohio re­leased 1,400 met­ric tons of phos­pho­rus into Lake Erie. A 40 per­cent re­duc­tion would be about 860 met­ric tons of phos­pho­rus, or roughly the same amount as re­leased in 2010. Gov. John Ka­sich and the other group lead­ers are sched­uled to meet next week at the 2017 Lead­er­ship Sum­mit in Detroit.

In a sep­a­rate re­sponse, Gail Hesse, di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion’s Great Lakes wa­ter pro­gram, posted a cri­tique on the agency’s blog. In the past two years, she said, the states and prov­ince have failed to of­fer work­able so­lu­tions nec­es­sary to re­duce phos­pho­rus pol­lu­tion and shrink the al­gal blooms.

“It is time for the fed­eral and state agen­cies to ... com­mit to mile­stones with time frames and be ac­count­able for meet­ing phos­pho­rus load­ing tar­gets for Lake Erie,” Hesse wrote.

“The draft plans re­leased to date in­clude many use­ful ini­tia­tives, but all fall far short of pro­vid­ing any as­sur­ance that the pro­posed ac­tions add up to meet­ing the 40 per­cent re­duc­tion tar­get. The plans read like a gro­cery list with­out a recipe,” she wrote.

Meyer and en­vi­ron­men­tal rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Michi­gan and On­tario ad­dressed the Lake Erie re­port via an on­line tele­con­fer­ence hosted by the re­port’s au­thors at the Al­liance for the Great Lakes and Fresh­wa­ter Fu­ture.

The re­port was based on con­sul­ta­tions with ex­perts and a re­view of leg­is­la­tion, reg­u­la­tions and poli­cies in each ju­ris­dic­tion. The con­clu­sion was that progress to­ward the 40 per­cent phos­pho­rus re­duc­tion has been “painfully slow... and lack­ing the com­pre­hen­sive ap­proach that is needed to ef­fec­tively ad­dress harm­ful al­gal blooms.”

The OEC’s Meyer praised farm­ers in the Maumee River water­shed who have ob­tained cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, and those who are em­ploy­ing prac­tices that re­duce phos­pho­rus runoff such as plant­ing cover crops, buf­fer zones and wet­lands. But vol­un­tary com­pli­ance isn’t suf­fi­cient to reach a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion, she said.

“Ev­ery year, the peo­ple of Toledo brace them­selves, is it go­ing to be toxic or not? Bot­tled wa­ter is fly­ing off the shelves. Peo­ple are re­ally wor­ried. It’s hav­ing a real im­pact on peo­ple’s psy­ches and their qual­ity of life,” Meyer said.

“We need to say enough is enough, it’s time to get this done. Ev­ery year there’s a bloom. We need to make changes in a big­ger way.”

The “Res­cu­ing Lake Erie” re­port de­fines and mea­sures the most sig­nif­i­cant poli­cies needed to achieve phos­pho­rus re­duc­tion in western Lake Erie. They in­clude re­duc­ing phos­pho­rus pol­lu­tion from agri­cul­tural sources, re­duc­ing phos­pho­rus pol­lu­tion from ur­ban sources, and mon­i­tor­ing and re­port­ing of phos­pho­rus load­ings and re­duc­tions.

ANDY MOR­RI­SON / THE TOLEDO BLADE

The an­nual harm­ful al­gal blooms in Lake Erie threaten drink­ing wa­ter for hun­dreds of thou­sands in Toledo and dam­age the econ­omy.

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