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Environmentalists Disappointed By EPA Plan To Fight Lake Erie Algae Blooms

Algae blooms on the coast of Toledo.
NASA Glenn Research Center

As Great Lakes advocates lobby Congress this week, a new report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency details how the federal government and states plan to fight algae blooms in Lake Erie. But the agency isn't proposing more federal regulations to accomplish the task.

The EPA’s plan – which summarizes agenda from Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania – targets phosphorus, the main cause of the blooms. Phosphorus winds up in the lake from sources including agriculture and wastewater treatment plants.

Both the U.S. and Canada have agreed to reduce phosphorus in western Lake Erie by 40 percent by 2025. Canada released its own report last month, with an emphasis on wastewater treatment plants.

The U.S. plan incorporates data and information from a white paper released last September.

Gail Hesse, of the National Wildlife Federation, worked on that white paper and says an earlier version of the EPA plan lacked projections for phosphorus loads.

“There’s a lot of great improvements in the plan,” Hesse said. “We’re still looking for how do we respond or how do the agencies respond should we not meet the targets as expected.”

Other actions include creating permanent demonstration wetlands and researching a type of green algae in Lake Erie’s eastern basin.

In a release from environmental groups including the National Wildlife Federation, the Alliance for the Great Lakes, and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, advocates say they are disappointed with the plan’s reliance on voluntary efforts to reduce nutrient runoff.

The EPA will reassess the plan every three to five years, starting in 2023.