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Lake Erie's toxic blooms have earned the lake a new label

Mark Brush
Michigan Radio

State officials in Ohio want to list parts of the Lake Erie shoreline and drinking water intakes in the lake as impaired. They want to do this because of the toxic blooms of cyanobacteria that have been growing on the lake every year. The blooms are fueled by excess nutrients, mostly phosphorus, that get into the lake from farms and sewage treatment plants.

An impaired listing under the Clean Water Act sets pollution limits and outlines what has to happen to clean up that pollution.

But some environmental groups want the state to go farther.

Joel Brammeier is President and CEO of the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

“What we’re asking for instead is for the entire basin of western Lake Erie to be listed as impaired because that entire water body is impaired. It has toxic drinking water and water you can’t safely swim in,” he says.

Brammeier says he recognizes that there are several voluntary efforts underway to cut the phosphorus that runs off from farms and gets into the lake.

"I think those are great things to do. I think it's going to require more action in Columbus and in Lansing and in Toronto, for that matter, in order for us to get the kind of pollution reductions that are going to be necessary," he says.

In an email, Heidi Griesmer, the communications department chief for the Ohio EPA, said:

Ohio is working to address its contribution to the problems in Lake Erie through nutrient water quality improvement plans on tributaries; numerous state initiatives to reduce nutrient loads from Ohio; and active participation on binational efforts to improve the lake through the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and the Western Basin of Lake Erie Collaborative Agreement.

Rebecca Williams is senior editor in the newsroom, where she edits stories and helps guide news coverage.
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