TOLEDO, OH – The Lucas County Commissioners today provided their input on the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s draft of the Agency’s water quality improvement plan to reduce nutrients going into Western Lake Erie from the Maumee River watershed.
The Commissioners, as a Board, have submitted formal comments for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal for the development of the Maumee Watershed Nutrient Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). The comments are attached to this release.
Commissioner Pete Gerken said: “In our constant fight to clean up Lake Erie and the Maumee River basin, we have won a battle but certainly we have not won the war. The consent decree creating this TMDL is a great accomplishment and it took years to achieve. Now, the next battle starts. To be effective this must happen: Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) must have permits to operate and permits must be enforced, and the overall TMDL must have enforcement teeth. Governor DeWine has done a good job with the H2Ohio program. But, we will face new challenges with CAFOs because they will resist. The TMDL needs to be the tool to measure CAFOs and ensure accountability. This cannot be a voluntary process. It has to be measureable, tangible, and enforceable. Otherwise, we will lose the next battle.”
“An effective TMDL, and one that mandates nutrient-reduction goals to ensure accountability, has been our objective for many years. It is critical that the draft TMDL not lack the necessary steps to reduce agriculture phosphorous runoff into Lake Erie and place limits on dissolved reactive phosphorus,” Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak said. “We shouldn’t be fooled into settling for half measures and voluntary practices any longer. We are talking about the health of our most valuable resource, and we must have a meaningful TMDL to protect it. Harmful algal blooms imperil Lake Erie and threaten our drinking water, fishing, recreation, tourism and many other uses.”
“We are asking the Ohio EPA to develop a TMDL that will move the needle forward on water quality in Lake Erie, and a TMDL that demands accountability from all sources of nutrient-causing algal blooms with enforceable standards will be the only way to accomplish that.” Commissioner Lisa A. Sobecki said. “Cleaning up Lake Erie is going to require government action with teeth and there must be enforceable limits on pollution to measure progress over the coming years. This will go a long way to achieving the necessary outcome of a cleaner Lake Erie. Immediate actions needs to be done. If we continue to do nothing then we will be unable to preserve our lake.”
The comments are being taken as part of federal consent decree that has been preliminary agreed to by all parties, including the Ohio EPA, to resolve a lawsuit filed by the Commissioners and the Environmental Law & Policy Center in 2019 against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to force the Ohio EPA to comply with the Clean Water Act and develop a TMDL to reduce agriculture pollution entering Lake Erie.
Under the terms of the proposed consent decree, the Ohio EPA has until June 30 to finalize the TMDL plan. The U.S. EPA must then either approve the TMDL or create its own.