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Great Lakes Today

Ohio Has Impaired Waters. But Lake Erie Isn't On The List

Elizabeth Miller

The U.S. EPA has approved Ohio’s list of impaired waters, a disappointment to environmental groups that filed a lawsuit against the agency last month.

Ohio’s list did not include the open waters of western Lake Erie – and groups including the National Wildlife Federation said that was a serious omission.

In a statement, the Federation’s Frank Szollosi said the federal agency's decision to approve Ohio’s list without the open waters prolongs Lake Erie’s problems.

“EPA’s action preserves a status quo of insufficient action and lack of urgency in addressing one of the most vexing problems facing Lake Erie and the many people, communities, and businesses which rely on it for their drinking water, jobs, and way of life,” he said.

“This decision continues kicking the can down the road while Lake Erie and the people and wildlife depending on it wait for solutions.”

Ohio EPA director Craig Butler says he’s been in conversations with the federal agency about impairment, but is still awaiting answers.

“We’ve also engaged with EPA about this impairment issue, asking them questions such as, ‘If we were to declare the open waters of Lake Erie impaired, what would be the metrics to say that they were un-impaired?’ They frankly couldn’t answer that question,” Butler said.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality included its portion of Lake Erie on its biennial list of impaired waters. 

Once the federal agency approves an impairment designation, the state sets pollution limits for that body of water.

Michigan’s list was approved back in February.

“They [Michigan] don’t have an answer to the question of how they would declare the open waters as unimpaired,” said Butler. “That’s an open question that they’re willing to accept and we were not.”