News Feature | November 13, 2017

EPA And Environmentalists Disagree Over Algae Threat In Lake Erie

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga, Associate Editor, Water Online

Erie.Reg

Environmental advocates and the U.S. EPA are at odds over whether or not toxic algae in Lake Erie is a serious concern.

“The [environmental] groups want the EPA to declare that the western end of the lake is impaired by the algae that’s a threat to drinking water and fish,” reported The Columbus Dispatch. “Such a designation could lead to stricter pollution controls.”

Toxic algae, which forms as the result of nutrient contamination within source water, has long posed problems for Lake Erie and has been known to impair local drinking water quality. Last spring, the EPA and state regulators in Ohio agreed that the lake’s waters should not be listed as impaired per the Clean Water Act. That fact, along with a perceived lack of action to combat the problem, has lead environmental groups to sue the agency.

“While steps have been taken to reduce the farm fertilizer runoff and municipal sewage overflows that feed the algae, environmental groups and some political leaders have become frustrated by the pace and depth of those efforts and have called for the impairment listing,” the Dispatch reported.

As it filed court documents, the EPA indicated that state regulators have not looked at whether or not the lake’s waters are meeting the state’s water quality standards. And this has raised a red flag for the environmental groups.

“They’re owning up the fact that Ohio didn’t do this,” Madeline Fleisher, an attorney for the Environmental Law and Policy Center, told the Dispatch. “We expect better from the agencies that are supposed to be leading the way on protecting people and the environment.”

Meanwhile, the EPA has maintained that it has not violated any laws under the Clean Water Act when it approved Ohio’s decision not to list Lake Erie as an impaired waterway.

Though the warmer months that bring peak algae season are over, this is a debate that will continue to rage in Ohio.

“It is important to not let up on the pressure on Ohio’s state officials,” per an editorial in The Blade. “They must change their tune on impairment, prompting federal intervention to identify and quantify the sources of pollution feeding the chronic toxic algae blooms on the lake.”

To read more about preventing toxic algae issues visit Water Online’s Nutrient Removal Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Lake Erie Trip 058," luluxinyi, 2007, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/