Algae Bloom in Lake Erie Addressed by New Regulations

In the way that politics make any sense, the federal government and the state of Ohio are now addressing the algae bloom in Lake Erie, two years after residents in Toledo, Ohio were unable to drink city water due to toxic algae bloom contamination.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has drafted a plan that addresses planned reduction of actions that contribute to the high levels of algae bloom, namely phosphorous wastes spilling into Lake Erie. The plan, made public May 25, 2016 and open for public comment through June 25, 2016 is set to go into effect on July 1, 2016 and last through June 30, 2017. Karl Gebhardt, deputy director for water resources at the Ohio EPA explained, “This is becoming a statewide issue in Ohio, as well as across the Midwest,” referencing the 500 mile stretch of algae bloom along the Ohio River during the summer of 2015.

In 2012, The United States and Canada, amended a joint agreement, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, first signed in 1972. In February 2015, the two countries reached an agreement with a reduction goal of 40 percent of the amount of phosphorous now entering the problem portions of Lake Erie by 2025.

Lake Erie’s toxic algae bloom directly affected the drinking water of the nearly 500,000 residents in Toledo, Ohio in August, 2014, and although there were no such repercussions in the summer of 2015, algae blooms on the smallest and most shallow of the five Great Lakes covered more surface area – the largest bloom in Lake Erie in 100 years – with a coverage of 300 square miles.

Algae bloom is harmful in a number of other ways, affecting the livelihoods of commercial fishermen, charter boats, pleasure cruises and more, as well as having potential public health ramifications. Property values have taken a hit in areas affected by the plentiful algae bloom. Fish populations die from the toxicity. Individuals having skin contact with the bloom can result in skin rashes and numbness; ingesting algae bloom-infested water can lead to nausea, vomiting and difficulty breathing.

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