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Local Agencies Urge EPA to Take Action on Great Lakes

Paul Bohn, Esq.

It's undeniable that toxic algae blooms can pose a major threat to the health of our Great Lakes. Officials acknowledge something must be done, but it's the solution that causes disagreement. Communities that rely on Lake Erie for drinking water, tourism, and recreational activities believe the federal government should respond.

Under President Trump's administration many fear the EPA isn't properly protecting the health of the Great Lakes. The EPA's regional office in Chicago has declined to declare the western basin of Lake Erie "impaired," a designation that many believe would generate federal action. The impairment designation would establish the U.S EPA as the coordinator of the protection efforts. Local officials believe this would result in a shift of the financial burden from the local level to the federal and state level, a shift that is much needed by these communities.

Without the leadership of the U.S. EPA, local agencies have been forced to take matters into their own hands. In attempts to find out exactly where the pollution was coming from, they began inventorying nutrient sources.

Phosphorus is the main nutrient causing the surplus of toxic algae. Runoff from industrial farms washes excess manure and fertilizer into local streams and rivers that feed Lake Erie. While it's true that farms are a main source of the problem, the project maps nutrient sources of all kinds. The goal is not to put agriculture out of business, but to help farmers understand the problem so new methods can be implemented.

Much of the water quality data they are working with comes from single samples, and unfortunately those samples are limited in what they display. Constant monitoring would give researchers a more informative outlook on the factors that impact water quality, and would go a long way towards a solution. Local officials know this is a regional issue, and believe that the impairment designation would help spread the financial burden, as well as provide proper research to protect our vitally important Great Lakes.

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