News Feature | March 13, 2014

Senate Passes Bill To Fight Algae

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

bluegreenalgaereg

As water utilities combat massive growths of toxic blue-green algae festering in water sources, the Senate is trying to lend a hand. 

The chamber passed legislation targeting the problem of harmful algae blooms. 

"Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) introduced S. 1254, the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act, which would require the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere to establish a national harmful algal bloom and hypoxia program and report a plan for Congress to address the issue," The Hill reported

The bill would "authorize the appropriation of $92 million between 2014-2018 for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to mitigate the effects of harmful algal blooms and hypoxia in certain bodies of water," The Hill said, citing the Congressional Budget Office.

"Further congressional support for battling scum toxic enough to be classified as harmful algae in western Lake Erie and other U.S. bodies of water is now up to the U.S. House of Representatives," the Toledo Blade reported

The Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act "reauthorizes and expands an Inter-Agency Task Force on Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia to include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," according to a Senate announcement

The bill would require the Task Force "to create a program to study the problem and an action plan to address it. The task force also would study the causes of hypoxia, or the depletion of oxygen in water. One cause of hypoxia is mass die-off of blue-green algae," the Democrat & Chronicle reported

The bill is a reauthorization of a previous law, which was first enacted in 1998 and reauthorized in 2004 and 2008, according to the Blade.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who supported the legislation, said it is "tremendous step toward protecting [waters] from the spread of harmful algae blooms. 

Sen. Rob Portman, R-OH, wrote a letter of support for the legislation in the Daily Call. He explained the impact algae has had in Ohio. 

"We’ve seen the impact in Ohio first-hand. In 2013, the City of Toledo was forced to spend $3 million to protect the city’s water supply from Lake Erie’s toxic algae, and Columbus spent $723,000 to address an algae outbreak at the Hoover Reservoir. It costs the city of Celina $450,000 annually to combat algae in Grand Lake St. Marys," Portman wrote.

For more on government oversight, check out Water Online's Regulations & Legislation Solution Center.

Image credit: "Blue Green Algae 04," Mark Sadowski © 2010, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

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