Western lake basin to be discussed

Larry Limpf

News Editor

A roundtable discussion of the water quality of the Western Basin of Lake Erie is scheduled for April 11 at the Maumee Bay State Park convention center.
Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur is hosting the discussion to hear from local officials and activists on the lake’s current condition and factors contributing to Harmful Algal Blooms.
One activist who plans to attend is Mike Ferner, a member of Lake Erie Advocates, which has been very vocal in its opposition to Ohio’s response to the algae problem.
In brief, the LEA position is that the H2Ohio Initiative doesn’t adequately address run-off from large-scale factory farms.
“I anticipate this will be a forum where most of the problems and solutions will be identified as having to do with too much algae and how can we put in more buffer strips on farms to take care of the problem. Instead of addressing the factory farm issue head on,” Ferner said last week. “That’s where the Ohio EPA is. They don’t want to touch it with a 10-foot pole. That’s my impression. It’s time to quit acting like we don’t know what the problem is and get some political back bone.”
After conducting hearings earlier this year, the Ohio EPA has until June 30 to submit its final Total Maximum Daily Load policy to the U.S. EPA. The TMDL establishes a maximum amount of a pollutant allowed to enter a body of water and still meet water quality standards for that particular pollutant. The goal is to cap phosphorus discharges from various sources; industrial livestock facilities, commercial fertilizer, and wastewater treatment plants to stem the formation of algal blooms.
During an EPA hearing in February on the agency’s draft TMDL proposal, Lake Erie Advocates cited research it says shows the OEPA recommendations are inadequate to stop toxic algae. Ferner said the OEPA document doesn’t consider the liquid manure from animals confined in more than 800 factory farms that is spread on farm fields.
In addition, the OEPA isn’t using the best available research and instead only measures Total Phosphorus levels to determine results. But, for more than a decade, scientists have found that Dissolved Phosphorus and Soluble Phosphorus has been fueling the lake’s algal blooms, Ferner said, adding the focus of any remedial plan should be on reducing the amount of liquid manure.
The Environmental Law & Policy Center also submitted critical testimony at the EPA hearing, saying the agency’s plan offers no improvements over past practices and the proposed TMDL fails to assign pollution reduction allocations to concentrated animal feeding operations.
The ELPC testimony cites the research of a soil scientist who has analyzed movement of water and contaminants through soils in the Maumee River Watershed.


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