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U.S. EPA Responds To Lawsuit Over Lake Erie's "Impaired" Waters

A 600 mile long algae bloom on the Ohio River in 2015.
Jeff Reutter
Ohio Sea Grant via Flickr

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the Ohio EPA did not fully look at research on harmful algal blooms when considering adding Lake Erie to its list of “impaired” waters.

Two organizations – the Environmental Law and Policy Center and Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie – are suing the U.S. EPA to request an “impaired” designation for the open waters of western Lake Erie.

Calling the lake “impaired” would set limits on pollution sources including agricultural runoff and wastewater treatment plants.

“Since Ohio failed to evaluate the open waters of Lake Erie, what does that mean? Did that violate the Clean Water Act?” says Madeline Fleisher of the ELPC. “We’ll need to argue that question to the judge, and he will give us a ruling.”

Ohio EPA says it did consider the existing data on open water pollution, but it did not meet the agency’s requirements for scientific rigor.

“The Clean Water Act is still the law of the land and we intend to make the EPA do its job to protect our environment, our health and Toledo's drinking water,” said Mike Ferner, leader of Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie.

In the past, Ohio EPA officials have said they would support listing the open waters as impaired when a “defendable and science-based process for… de-listing becomes available.” 

Michigan has already designated its part of Lake Erie as impaired.