News Feature | December 27, 2017

With Toxic Algae Concerns, Ohio EPA Considers New Wastewater Standard

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga

After a toxic algae issue led to a drinking water ban in Toledo, OH, a few years ago, the area has become somewhat of a “ground zero” for nutrient pollution issues.

The latest development in this ongoing saga has seen Ohio officials ramp up the fight against algae, despite the expense this effort will bring to ratepayers.

“The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s idea is to remove more than 2 million pounds of algae-feeding phosphorus that’s dumped into the state’s rivers and streams each year,” reported the Miami Herald. “It wants to force plants statewide to make upgrades to the treatment process. In most cases that would mean adding more chemicals to remove phosphorus in the wastewater. The agency projects there would be a slight cost increase for households across the state.”

While ratepayers are almost certainly against a raise in their bills, even treatment professionals seem at odds over whether the plan will yield worthwhile benefits or not. The state EPA’s plan calls for a 1 milligram per liter standard that would affect about 1,700 wastewater plants and it would cost around $25 million total to implement.

“Some wastewater plant operators contend limiting their phosphorus discharged will make just a small dent and that the costs are unnecessary, especially for the smallest plants that contribute little to the overall phosphorus amounts,” per the Herald.

As officials mull over the pros and cons of the plan, work never ceases to fight the presence of poisonous algae in Lake Erie. While the warm temperatures of summer promote growth, this time of year is equally critical when it comes to the problem.

“Much of the number-crunching from last summer’s bloom is done during the winter,” according to the Toledo Blade. “And [in mid-December], a dozen people — a combination of Great Lakes scientists and water-treatment plant operators— met at the University of Toledo’s Lake Erie Center to clean, re-calibrate, and reset sensors that will be used on buoys in the lake next summer.”

While that research continues, regulators should soon decide on whether increased expenses warrant their plan to reduce phosphorus.

To read more about controlling toxic algae visit Water Online Nutrient Removal Solutions Center.