News Feature | December 11, 2014

Congress Looks To Regulate Blue-Green Algae Toxins

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,


Congress is taking steps to regulate blue-green algae toxins.

"In the week before Thanksgiving, Ohio Republican Rep. Bob Latta introduced a bill that would amend the Safe Drinking Water Act (PL 93-523)," according to Roll Call. 

The legislation, HR 5753, would change the act to "provide for the assessment and management of the risk of cyanotoxins in drinking water, and for other purposes."

The legislation would require the EPA to come up with a plan for toxic algae, which is plaguing parts of the Great Lakes and led to a water ban in Toledo, OH, this year.

“My legislation will ensure a robust approach when addressing the health of our drinking water,” Latta said in a statement about his bill. “In addition, by requiring the EPA to develop a strategic plan that outlines how it will assess and manage the risks associated with cyanotoxins in our water, the bill will foster close, ongoing coordination between all agencies involved and set timelines to ensure the health of our drinking water is addressed in a timely manner.”

Cyanotoxins, which are produced by blue-green algae, are on the EPA's Candidate Contaminant 3 List, which enumerates harmful contaminants for potential regulatory action.

At a recent House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on cyanotoxins, John Donahue, president of the American Water Works Association, explained the origin of the problem.

“There is no uncertainty about one critical aspect of the problem: It is always associated with amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus in the water,” Donahue said, per Roll Call. “Although each watershed is unique and has its own mix of nutrient sources, across the nation the most prominent uncontrolled sources of nitrogen and phosphorus are non-point sources — that is, runoff. These sources are at the same time both the hardest to manage and the furthest from being subject to meaningful federal regulatory authority.”

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Image credit: "U.S. Capitol," Cliff © 2008, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: