The administration hopes the declaration will lead to more significant change in the water quality
The Ohio EPA has declared the western end of Lake Erie as an impaired waterway due to toxic algae which has contaminated drinking water and closed beaches. The impaired area stretches for 60 miles from Toledo to Marblehead, Ohio. Environmentalists point to agricultural runoff as the contributing factor behind the algae blooms. An algae bloom in 2014 left more than 400,000 people near Toledo without drinking water and the subsequent year’s outbreak was the largest to date, as reported by CBS News.
Previously, the administration of Ohio Gov. John Kasich had been reluctant to declare the Lake impaired, saying federal regulators did not have standards to measure such a decision. There has also been concern that the designation will negatively impact tourism on the waterway.
“I’m very concerned about the negative consequences this could bring for our tourism and fishing industries for very little environmental gain,” said state EPA Director Craig Butler.
Supporters of the designation regard it as a positive step to open more opportunities for funding and better collaboration on restoration efforts, according to Cleveland news source The Plain Dealer. Michigan and Ontario have previously declared the Lake waters impaired and environmentalists hope cleanup efforts and further agricultural runoff restrictions can be implemented to address water quality concerns.