Today, we joined with a coalition of groups concerned about Lake Erie to file a lawsuit against US EPA for refusing to do its duty under the Clean Water Act. We’re calling on US EPA to take action to protect Lake Erie from harmful algal blooms, like the 2014 bloom that poisoned drinking water for more than 400,000 people.

This comes after we filed a legal motion in December, which warned US EPA that we were prepared to sue to protect our water. Still, the agency continued to drag its feet and has failed to act. It’s more important than ever that EPA do its job, and we’re suing to hold the agency accountable.

We need to use all available tools to clean up Lake Erie

The Clean Water Act requires states to determine if their waterways are clean enough to provide safe drinking water, fishing, and swimming. If they do not, the waterways must be listed as “impaired.” Western Lake Erie clearly meets the definition of impaired.

Listing western Lake Erie as impaired would equip us with new tools to clean up the lake. State and federal agencies would be required to create a clear and accountable plan that sets pollution limits and details actions to meet them.

Michigan has listed its portion of western Lake Erie as impaired. Ohio, on the other hand, has listed only parts of western Lake Erie as impaired rather than all of the waters impacted by harmful algal blooms. We hope that EPA will get this one right and deny Ohio’s list because it does not include Ohio’s portion of western Lake Erie. But one thing is clearinaction is unacceptable.

A failure we cannot afford

Under the Clean Water Act, US EPA must accept or deny state’s lists of impaired waters within 30 days. The process is key in identifying unhealthy waters so actions can be taken to improve them. The U.S. EPA has failed to carry out its duty by refusing to act on Ohio’s list, which was submitted in October 2016.

The Clean Water Act can protect our drinking water and public health, but only if EPA uses it effectively. By failing to make a decision about Ohio’s impaired waters list, EPA is kicking the can down the road. Now, we are holding them accountable.

“The Clean Water Act provides powerful tools to protect our drinking water, public health, and economy. It’s time to use them to clean up Lake Erie,” said Alliance for the Great Lakes President and CEO Joel Brammeier. “We can solve this problem but it’s going to take action. State and federal leaders have said the right things, and now they have to follow through.”

Alliance for the Great Lakes is working on this effort in coalition with Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, Lake Erie Foundation, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, National Wildlife Federation, and Ohio Environmental Council.