July 11, 2019 (Cleveland, OH)

Earlier today, NOAA and its partners released the 2019 Seasonal Forecast of Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB) for Lake Erie. Researchers forecast a severe algal bloom event in the lake, with a severity forecast of 7.5 on a scale of 1-10. The size of the bloom does not necessarily indicate the toxicity of the bloom. 

Alliance for the Great Lakes Policy Director Crystal Davis issued the following statement in response: 

“Today’s harmful algal bloom forecast is sobering news for the people who live and work along Lake Erie’s shores. Communities and businesses around Lake Erie worry about and plan for harmful algae blooms, wondering if the algae will pollute their drinking water, harm the region’s vital tourism economy, and prevent residents and visitors from enjoying recreation opportunities around the lake.

As we prepare to mark the 5th anniversary of the Toledo drinking water crisis later this summer, the forecast once again raises fears about the potential for drinking water issues. For nearly three days in August 2014, Toledo residents were without safe drinking water flowing from their taps. 

One year after the Toledo crisis, Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario’s elected leaders committed to a 40% reduction of phosphorus in Lake Erie by 2025. Phosphorous is the key pollutant underlying the harmful algal blooms. The agreement included an interim goal of a 20% reduction by 2020. Although it is not yet 2020, all signs indicate that the interim goal will not be met. This is disappointing news for the millions of people who rely on Lake Erie for their drinking water and economic well-being. 

However, we aren’t entirely discouraged. Earlier this year, newly elected leadership took office in Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario. At the recent Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers Summit last month, they confirmed their commitment to the 2025 goal. And, we’re seeing the jurisdictions take encouraging steps forward. For example, funding proposals, like the H2Ohio fund, have been introduced in Ohio to address the pollution sources feeding the lake’s annual harmful algal blooms. But money alone cannot solve this problem. Funding for pollution reduction programs must have accountability measures in place to ensure the funds lead to measurable clean water outcomes.”

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Media Contact: Jennifer Caddick, jcaddick@greatlakes.org, (312) 445-9760

 

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