Joint Press Release from Alliance for the Great Lakes, Freshwater Future, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, and Ohio Environmental Council
October 10, 2017 (Chicago) – Environmental and conservation groups today released a new report examining progress by Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario toward reducing the runoff pollution fueling harmful algal blooms in western Lake Erie. In 2015, these jurisdictions committed to reduce phosphorus pollution to western Lake Erie by 40 percent by 2025. Overall, the report details a lackluster effort to date and raises serious questions about the pace and level of commitment by the jurisdictions to meet their bold goal.
This year another massive harmful algal bloom in western Lake Erie has caused concern about water safety and Great Lakes residents want to know what specific actions are being taken to clean up Lake Erie. More than 13,000 people signed petitions delivered to the Governors of Michigan and Ohio and Premier of Ontario, calling for swift action on Lake Erie cleanup. The Great Lakes governors and premiers are meeting on the banks of the Detroit River on October 20-22. They owe the public a report on progress and what next steps will be taken to achieve the 40% commitment.
In June 2015, under pressure from people across the Great Lakes region, the Governors of Ohio and Michigan joined the Premier of Ontario and committed to reducing the amount of runoff pollution, specifically phosphorus, flowing into western Lake Erie by 40 percent by 2025. The report released today – Rescuing Lake Erie: An Assessment of Progress – examines the jurisdictions’ progress toward meeting the commitment. The report was authored by the Alliance for the Great Lakes and Freshwater Future. And, report findings are supported by Environmental Defence Canada, Ohio Environmental Council, and Michigan League of Conservation Voters.
Though not exhaustive, the report attempts to define and measure the most significant policies needed to achieve phosphorus reduction in western Lake Erie. In order to make progress, all of the jurisdictions must address the following key policy areas:
- Reducing phosphorus pollution from agricultural sources;
- Reducing phosphorus pollution from urban sources; and
- Monitoring and reporting of phosphorus loadings and reductions.
The report authors reviewed current legislation, regulations, and policy in each jurisdiction and consulted with experts to compile a comparative assessment of progress.
Unfortunately, the report found progress by Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario to be painfully slow. The report found overall progress to be mixed and lacking the comprehensive approach that is needed to effectively address harmful algal blooms. Notably, no jurisdiction has any policies in place that fully address the critical issues identified.
“This situation is unacceptable. No one around Lake Erie – or any Great Lake – should have to worry and wonder if their drinking water is safe,” said Alliance for the Great Lakes Vice President of Policy Molly Flanagan. “The leaders of Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario must immediately step up Lake Erie cleanup efforts and take the bold steps needed to protect the drinking water for millions of Americans and Canadians.”
“Few things are more fundamental to our health than the water we drink, and with annual algal blooms threatening the water quality of Lake Erie, it is clear that this problem can only be addressed at the source,” said Kristy Meyer, Vice President of Policy at the Ohio Environmental Council. “Ohio’s approach to curbing the algae-causing pollution flowing into Lake Erie is simply not enough. We need to do more to solve this problem.”
“One of our Great Lakes is in such poor health that our communities are seeing contaminated drinking water, closed beaches, and damage to our fishing and tourism industries, and yet Michigan’s leaders still do not have a serious plan to get Lake Erie’s algae problem under control,” said Charlotte Jameson, government affairs director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “It is past time that the leaders of the Great Lakes State put forward a credible strategy to address this threat to our state’s clean water.”
“Year after year, Lake Erie turns green, significantly impacting water quality and multi-million dollar tourism, boating and fishing economies,” said Tony Maas, Manager of Strategies with Freshwater Future. “This report clearly shows that there are things Ontario can do to curb algae blooms and it’s time for our provincial leaders to take action on putting the policies in place to restore the health of the lake.”
The full report, Rescuing Lake Erie: An Assessment of Progress, can be found here along with an executive summary and fact sheets summarizing findings in Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario.
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