Federal judge sets deadlines to reduce Ohio phosphorus pollution getting into Lake Erie
A federal judge has approved a consent decree to reduce phosphorus pollution going into Lake Erie.
Judge James Carr of the Northern District of Ohio set deadlines for an action plan.
The Lucas County Board of Commissioners in Ohio and the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) pushed for the order for a “pollution diet.”
“It doesn’t accomplish the cleanup. Much more needs to be done. But this puts us another step forward on the path requiring the State of Ohio and the U.S. EPA to take meaningful action to reduce phosphorus,” said Howard Learner, executive director and senior attorney for the ELPC.
The order means the State of Ohio must establish limits for phosphorus and regulate the big livestock farms and the farms where manure is spread. The judge set a deadline of June 30.
“And if the State of Ohio doesn’t do it, the U.S. EPA has to step up and put together its own enforceable regulatory standards so that we achieve progress in cleaning up Lake Erie, which is the goal we all share,” Learner said.
Every summer, the phosphorus pollution triggers toxic cyanobacterial blooms in the western basin of Lake Erie. The green scum on Lake Erie prevents people from safely swimming and they have to be careful of exposure when fishing in boats.
Because of the amount of phosphorus already sitting in the ditches and tributaries of the Maumee River watershed, it will take years to see substantial changes in the phosphorus levels in Lake Erie.
To accomplish the reduction, Ohio will have to see more grassy buffers, more wetland areas restored, and better monitoring of field applications of manure and fertilizer.
The Ohio Farm Bureau has consistently fought anything beyond volunteer efforts and financial incentives to reduce phosphorus pollution.