Water Woes Not Only Drought Related: Try Toledo

Update: So the emergency is declared over. Until the next time.

“The City of Toledo issued an urgent water advisory early Saturday morning. The advisory is still in effect as of Sunday.

“City of Toledo residents and regional residents (including portions of Lucas, Wood, Fulton and Monroe counties) who receive water from the city are asked to not drink city water until further notice, including water that has been boiled. Water should also not be given to pets.

Water for these areas originates in Lake Erie and that lake has been the sump for all manner of human created waste-run offs for years — which, it turns out, are a fine fertilizer for blue-green algae, which produced the micro-toxins now threatening the populace.

Toledo Free Press

lake erie algae

What goes around, as is said, comes around.

Says Collin O’Mara of the National Wildlife Federation.

there’s a systemic challenge that we face here in the Great Lakes that’s actually much bigger than this one crisis. And unfortunately this crisis could just be the tip of the iceberg unless we begin to address it.”

It’s more than just run-off from industry and farmers’ fields, but run-off from fertilizer individual people use on their lawns, the overuse of manure and more, as well as affected by natural causes. The consequences affect not only residents but wildlife, fisheries, businesses such as charter boats, tourism and more.

Of course, a crisis like this is also an opportunity to ask questions, primarily what have US Congressional Representatives and US Senators from Ohio done about the first line of defense for a) testing the water and b) having muscle to b.1) get it cleaned up and b.2) getting at the cause?

I’m always curious because the EPA — Federal and Ohio– are always such whipping boys for the ‘leave-me-alone crowd’  What is to be done, and who should do it?  Who should pay?  Curious observers want to know.

As does at least one columnist at the Toledo Blade

I spoke Saturday with Frank Szollosi, who is the point man for the Great Lakes with the National Wildlife Federation but is from and still lives in Toledo. He told me that there has been a 37 percent increase in rainfall in this region since 1958 and “farming practices and waste water infrastructure have not kept up.” Fertilizer runoff and factory farms, he said, are not problems of Toledo’s making. His conclusion: “We are enduring the result of system failure.” He said the system has not changed as the climate has. And that, until agribusiness must comply with the same rules the rest of us must comply with, our water will be compromised. We need our farmers in order to eat. But we need a system that protects the water supply. He told me, “This happened last night, but it didn’t happen overnight.”

Blade: Burris

And, I know it’s not pleasant, but the phosphorous in the water is coming from somewhere.  If campers were shitting up stream in our river they’d be told to stop — not just given a suggestion. No negotiation: stop!

Researchers largely blame the algae’s resurgence on manure and chemical fertilizer from farms that wash into the lake along with sewage treatment plants. Leaky septic tanks and stormwater drains have contributed, too. Combined, they flush huge amounts of phosphorus into the lake.

Environmental groups and water researchers have been calling on Ohio and other states in the Great Lakes region to drastically reduce the amount of phosphorus flowing into the lake. Ohio lawmakers this past spring took a step toward tackling the algae problem when they enacted a law requiring most farmers to undergo training before they use commercial fertilizers on their fields.But they stopped short of mandating restrictions on farmers.

The International Joint Commission, an advisory agency made up of Canadian and U.S. officials, said last year urgent steps are needed to reduce phosphorus applied to fields, suggesting among other things that states ban the spread of manure on frozen or snow-covered ground.


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