Home Environment Bills created to limit algal bloom in the Great Lakes

Bills created to limit algal bloom in the Great Lakes

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The largest algal bloom recorded in history was seen in Lake Erie in 2011, covering about 3,400 miles, and last year a similar bloom contaminated the drinking water for more than 400,000 people in the Toledo area. In order to limit this continuous outbreak, the Ohio Senate unanimously supported a bill last week that would minimize fertilizer runoff.

Senate Bill 1, which passed on February 18, would prohibit the spread of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer and manure on frozen or wet soil. It would also require certain facilities to monitor phosphorous levels, a nutrient that can cause toxic algae blooms if enough is dissolved in water and regulate material being dumped from the harbors and rivers into the lake.

Joe Logan, president of the Ohio Farmers Union, believes SB 1 is a step in the right direction and thinks improvements are necessary to reduce harmful algae in Lake Erie.

“Senate Bill 1 is a reasonable approach to limit phosphorus and a great deal of research has indicated that agriculture is a primary source for this algal problem — not the only source — but we think this is a reasonable first step,” Logan said.

A similar bill was introduced in the Ohio House on February 11, but this legislation includes slight changes that result in stronger runoff regulations.

Lyman Welch, water quality director at Alliance for Great Lakes, believes House Bill 61 is an improvement from Senate Bill 1.

“House Bill 61 has some provisions that do a better a job of addressing this issue,” said Welch. “There are still some ways that House Bill 61 could be improved to ensure enforcement.”

HB 61 would prohibit farmers from using any fertilizer or manure — rather than just ones defined as phosphorus or nitrogen, as in SB 1 — on frozen or saturated soil in the western basin of Lake Erie. It also does not contain the expiration of these regulations after five years like SB 1.

The Lake Erie region also received more than $19 million in federal grant money in Janurary to help farmers in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana reduce algae-forming runoff. By reducing the amount of phosphorus that comes from fertilizers that flow into the lake, supporters hope to limit algal blooms, ensure the safety of drinking water and strengthen the economy, according to an NBC article.

Welch believes a collaborative effort will be needed to control the harmful algae blooms plaguing Lake Erie.

“We need all the governors in the great lakes to come together to reduce the phosphorus in Lake Erie so all sources of pollution are eliminated,” Welch said.

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One Comment

  1. […] The bill forbids surface fertilizer application by anyone in the western basin when the ground is covered in snow or when the top two inches of soil are saturated by precipitation. However, there are some exceptions; this is permitted if the manure is injected into the ground or if it is applied to a growing crop. […]

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