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Lake Erie Water Quality Issues

Paul F. Bohn, Esq.

Not long ago on our Firm’s Facebook page, I posted a link directing folks to a website where they can keep up-to-date on beach closings in and around the southern Great Lakes (myBeachCast).   As some of you have noticed, last summer we saw another record year of beach closings in Lake St. Clair and southern Lake Erie, as well as an emergency shutdown of drinking water intakes in Toledo and other Lake Erie metropolitan areas, which helped focus national attention on this water quality issue. 

Two recent initiatives should help address these growing Lake Erie water quality concerns.  Recently, the 4R Nutrient Council voted to certify three Ohio businesses in 4R’s fertilizer reduction approach.  On the same day, the Environmental Defense Fund (“EDF”) announced an effort to eliminate and reduce fertilizer pollution in surface waters nationwide.  The 4R certified businesses serve landowners who own a combined 180,000 acres of tilled land, most of which drains into Lake Erie.  An overabundance of phosphorus flowing into Lake Erie’s western basin has helped feed the annual algae bloom and the recent 2014 summer mega-bloom, which shut down Toledo’s water supply system.  4R approach is directed at reducing phosphorus from entering both surface and groundwater.  The EDF initiative is aimed at supporting national fertilizer retailers, suppliers, agribusinesses and farmers’ efforts to maximize fertilizer efficiency and reduce phosphorus runoff.

In addition to reducing water pollution caused by the introduction of too much phosphorus, fertilizer optimization is expected to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural activities as well.

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