On eve of the sixth month anniversary, Gov. Kasich has opportunity to protect Lake Erie from future drinking water disasters by putting in place common-sense safe-guards against harmful farm runoff
On the eve of the six-month anniversary of a drinking water crisis that left nearly half a million Toledo-area residents without safe drinking water for three days, groups are calling on Ohio Gov. John Kasich to take action to curb farm field runoff that fueled harmful algal blooms in western Lake Erie that led to the crisis.
The call to action comes days before the Feb. 2, six-month anniversary of the Toledo disaster of Aug. 2, 2014, and on the same day that key state lawmakers hold a field hearing as part of a lead-up to planned bill introductions to tackle the vexing problem of farm runoff. It remains to be seen, however, whether the Ohio legislature will deliver.
But there's a lot that Gov. Kasich can do right now to put forward solutions. And as the Ohio governor prepares to lay out his priorities for the year in the his annual state of the state address in mid-February, Lake Erie advocates are urging Gov. Kasich to use his authority as chief executive to put in place common-sense safeguards against harmful runoff that feed toxic algal blooms.
The leading cause of toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie, as confirmed by scientists and numerous reports, is farm field runoff. Rain and snow melt wash nutrients from excess fertilizer and manure off farm fields and into area waterways. The increased nutrients—in particular phosphorus—feed excessive algae growth, which can lead to large, toxic algal blooms that harm drinking water supplies, close beaches, sicken pets, incur costs on municipalities, and hurt local economies.
Preeminent scientists in the United States and Canada have called for phosphorus reductions of at least 40 percent into Western Lake Erie to solve the problem—a level of reduction that will only be achieved if states with tributaries that drain to the lake, especially Ohio, act.
"Safe, clean drinking water is something that we often take for granted, yet in Toledo last August we saw what happens when we don’t take care of water bodies like Lake Erie and the Maumee River," said Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. "Gov. Kasich has the power—today—to take concrete actions that will prevent future drinking water disasters by putting in place common sense safe-guards against harmful run-off. This is a tremendous opportunity for Gov. Kasich to seize a leadership role and support the people, communities and businesses that depend upon clean water for public health and economic vitality."
"Six months after the Toledo drinking water crisis, Ohio’s citizens need to know that this problem is going to be dealt with once and for all," said Kristy Meyer, Managing Director of agricultural, Health and Clean Water Programs at the Ohio Environmental Council. "The threat of toxic algal blooms will not disappear on its own. It’s vital that Gov. Kasich put forward solutions to this problem before Ohioans once again find themselves dealing with Third World water problems in a First World country."
"Excessive nutrient loading, and the harmful algal blooms it causes, is a huge problem for Lake Erie—and for everyone who drinks water from Lake Erie and other surface waters in Ohio," said Robert Heath, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences and Director Emeritus of the Water Resources Research Institute at Kent State University and Former President of the International Association for Great Lakes Research. “Without new standards and more comprehensive programs, we are guaranteeing another algal bloom drinking water crisis. We know what needs to be done, and public officials like Gov. Kasich have the ability to help us reach those goals as quickly as possible if they take the bull by the horns and act."
"Farmers have a big role to play in protecting the health of Lake Erie, and many farmers are leading the way with innovative conservation practices, but more must be done,” said Joe Logan, president of the Ohio Farmers Union. "Farmers are committed to being part of a comprehensive effort to curb harmful runoff and protect our soil and water quality—and we’d like to see Gov. Kasich spearhead such an effort."
"The health of Lake Erie is in serious jeopardy," said Captain Dave Spangler of the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association. "Year after year, we are seeing harmful algal blooms hurt the bottom line of charter boat captains and numerous other businesses that depend on Lake Erie for their livelihoods. Gov. Kasich has the opportunity to advance solutions that are good for our environment and economy. Safe and reliable drinking water absolutely trumps any issues encountered to get there. Recovery must start now."
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