Protect Source of Drinking Water for Millions from Harmful Algae Blooms

Target: John Kasich, Ohio Governor

Goal: Protect a valuable source of drinking water and aquatic habitats by reducing the discharge of agricultural runoff into Lake Erie.

Nutrient-laden runoff has caused significant algae growth in Lake Erie, especially the western end near Ohio and its significant agriculture industry. Voluntary measures by farmers to cut back polluted runoff have not been sufficient to stop harmful algae blooms in Lake Erie. Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario laudably signed a plan to reduce the nutrient load flowing into Lake Erie by 40% by 2025; however, Ohio has provided no regulatory mandate or funding to assist the agriculture industry in meeting these goals. Meanwhile, harmful algae continue to pose a hazard to Lake Erie due to this toxic runoff.

The pollutants causing these extreme algae growths, or blooms, are primarily nitrogen and phosphorous from manure and chemical fertilizers spread in crop fields. These non-point sources of pollution are notoriously difficult to handle because they can cover such large areas. The toxic algae blooms can impact drinking water, inhibit recreation activities on the lake, and choke out aquatic life. Oftentimes, conventional water treatment plants cannot handle these types of contamination. In the past, spikes of algae blooms has caused issues of drinking water becoming unavailable in areas due to the inability to treat the water.

In an attempt to curb the nutrient loading in runoff from farm fields, the Ohio EPA has encouraged farmers to voluntarily implement storm water controls and increase soil testing. Further attempts include an outright ban on the spreading of manure and fertilizer when the ground is either saturated or frozen, which can cause increased runoff. However, data from the past five years has indicated no significant decrease in pollutant levels. It is possible that the sheer size of the two-billion-dollar ethanol industry is simply too big for these small changes to make an appreciable difference.

Ohio is nowhere near on track to meet their runoff reduction goals. The voluntary measures are insufficient to reduce the pollutant loading and small farmers cannot be expected to carry this burden on their own. Sign the petition to encourage the funding of larger initiatives that will be the beginning of the end for these toxic algae blooms.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Governor Kasich,

Toxic algae blooms caused by runoff from agriculture are choking out aquatic life in Lake Erie and impacting your state’s drinking water. While Ohio’s plan to curb this nutrient laden runoff by 40% by 2025 is commendable, these goals are unattainable at the current rate of progress.  Based on data from the Ohio EPA over the last five years, no appreciable reduction in nutrient loading, and therefore algae blooms, has been seen using the current voluntary measures.

It is critical to stop the pollution of Lake Erie with nitrogen and phosphorous in order to protect drinking water and the aquatic life found there. Significant accumulations of algae cannot be removed using conventional water treatment techniques and threaten aquatic life. This nutrient-laden runoff is largely attributed to agriculture, significant portions of which include corn fields grown for ethanol production. While this industry is significantly important to your economy, equally important is the availability of potable water, which is constantly challenged by these algae blooms.

The most effective methods for reducing pollutant runoff includes the development of buffer areas between farm fields and surface water resources and the planting of winter cover crops. However, these initiatives are unfunded and not in widespread use. Please, support the Clean Lake 2020 initiative to fund mandates and assist farmers with better agricultural practices. It is imperative to reduce this agricultural runoff and curb algae growth in Lake Erie before it is too late.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

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