The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper


        Lucas County Commissioners recently expressed their support for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s rejection last month of the Ohio EPA’s 2016 list of impaired waters in Ohio, which had failed to include the impairment designation of Ohio’s portion of the open waters of Western Lake Erie.

        “We’re gratified the U.S. EPA is enforcing the Clean Water Act and requiring the State of Ohio to follow the law,” said Commissioner Carol Contrada. “This is a significant move to protect drinking water and the health of Lake Erie. This will provide the accountability that 11 million citizens that are affected by the health of Lake Erie expect.”

        Commissioner Pet Gerken said that the Ohio EPA has received Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding since 2011 to monitor nutrient levels in the western basin.

        “Director Butler’s defense that they don’t have the data to make an impairment designation doesn’t add up – and now the Trump Administration agrees.”



        The U.S. EPA stated earlier this year it was wrong to approve a decision by the Ohio EPA to designate only limited shoreline areas of western Lake Erie as impaired.

        The Clean Water Act requires Ohio, every two years, to evaluate the water quality of all waters within its jurisdiction and submit a list to U.S. EPA that identifies each body of water that is impaired by pollution. The U.S. EPA then approves the list if it meets specific requirements, including the requirement to assemble and evaluate all existing and readily available water quality related data and information regarding water quality problems within a state’s jurisdiction.

        Last October, the Ohio EPA submitted its list to U.S. EPA without assembling all readily available information regarding phosphorus pollution that drives the growth of Harmful Algal Blooms in the open waters of western Lake Erie, or evaluating whether Harmful Algal Blooms are impairing those waters, as required by the Clean Water Act. The U.S. EPA approved of the state’s decision on May 19, 2017.       

        In a Jan. 12 letter to Craig Butler, director of the Ohio EPA, David R. Ross, assistant administrator of the U.S. EPA, stated that the federal agency had “reevaluated” the state’s list and determined it was “not fully consistent with the requirements of the Clean Water Act and EPA’s regulations.”

Political will

        “The health of Lake Erie continues to be a top priority of the Lucas County Commissioners,” said Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak. “We have a dynamic program to identify sources and amounts of nutrients flowing into Lake Erie. Our offer to partner with state and federal EPA officials to ensure that these sources are identified and mitigated is still on the table,” she added, referring to the Nutrient Source Inventory.

        In July, 2014, unsafe levels of a toxin, mycrocystin, shut down Toledo’s public drinking water for 400,000 customers in northwest Ohio and 30,000 residents in southeast Michigan. Microcystin, which can cause liver and kidney damage, is produced by algal blooms that develop in the lake. They are fed mostly by fertilizer and manure runoff from farm fields.

        Yet nearly four years later, harmful algal blooms continue to plague the lake.

        Wozniak told The Press last week that it is important for the open waters of Western Lake Erie to receive the designation of full impairment to adequately fix the problems that still pose a threat to the lake.

        “The full impairment designation would provide us with the resources to pay for some of the improvements we need to make, including implementing best practices to curb runoff coming from agriculture throughout the Lake Erie Basin,” she said.

        Many have wondered why there is still no designation of full impairment in the western basin.

        “I don’t know if it just lacks political will,” said Wozniak.

        The Nutrient Source Inventory program was established by the county to map the source and path of toxins as they drain into the Maumee River and into the lake.

        “The NSI tool shows throughout the Western Lake Erie Basin where the sources and the amounts of nutrients are. We are doing that program because we don’t have that impaired status. So the local governments like Toledo and Lucas County have to do all its own work on fixing the lake because we’re not getting the support and resources at the federal level. We’re willing to partner. But we can’t do it all on our own because we have fewer resources compared to what the federal government could do,” she said.




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