EPA Urged to Correct Pollution of Lake Erie

Algal bloom in Lake Erie, Kelley’s Island. October 16, 2011. Photo: T. Joyce, NOAA GLERL.

WASHINGTON (CN) – Complaining of toxic algal blooms, environmentalists brought a federal complaint to make the government take action against the pollution of Lake Erie.

The April 25 complaint in Washington comes six months after Ohio left the Great Lake out of its October 2016 list of impaired waters.

Saying it is not too late to restore Erie’s water quality, the National Wildlife Federation and five other groups want the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to disapprove of that omission.

The environmentalists note that the deadline for the EPA to make that determination was Nov. 19.

“By unlawfully withholding the decision to approve or disapprove OEPA’s omission of Lake Erie from the 303(d) list, U.S. EPA is delaying the restoration of Lake Erie that might follow from a decision to disapprove,” the complaint states. “This delay has harmed and continues to harm plaintiffs and their members’ use and enjoyment of Lake Erie.”

OEPA is short for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. It is not a party to the complaint, which takes aim only at the U.S. EPA; its leader, Scott Pruitt; and Robert Kaplan, who is the acting regional administrator of the area covering Lake Erie.

“Lake Erie suffers from persistent pollution, resulting in toxic or other algal

blooms and other adverse conditions, some of which may be or are hazardous to human health,” the 10-page complaint says. “This pollution may be abated if the addition of pollutants causing the pollution is reduced to a level that will restore the quality of the water.”

EPA regulations require each state to a list every two years of impaired waters, with corresponding totals for its maximum daily load of pollutants causing contamination.

“We hope the lawsuit is a catalyst for the EPA to fulfill its responsibility under the Clean Water Act so that state and federal public officials can start putting solutions in place to curb harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie that are harming our drinking water, jobs, and way of life,” Mike Shriberg of the National Wildlife Federation said in a statement. “Continuing to kick the can down the road will only make the problem worse for Lake Erie, our environment and our economy. This is a problem that you can literally see from space.”

The federation brought its complaint with the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, the Lake Erie Foundation, the Michigan United Conservation Clubs and the Ohio Environmental Council.

They are represented by National Wildlife Federation attorney Neil Kagan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The EPA did not immediately return a request for comment.

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