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Kasich declares Lake Erie’ Open Waters Impaired (Toledo Blade)

March 22, 2018

The Kasich administration — after years of resistance on behalf of agriculture — announced Thursday it has reversed itself on northwest Ohio’s arguably most contentious water-policy issue and will declare the open waters of western Lake Erie as impaired.

Although details of the impairment designation are still to be worked out, it will invariably mean tighter rules for agriculture and others that release nutrients into western Lake Erie tributaries.

Ohio has been the last holdout on the issue, which gained a lot of traction after the 2014 Toledo water crisis. During that crisis, western Lake Erie’s most notorious algal toxin, microcystin, became so strong in August that it overwhelmed the city’s Collins Park Water Treatment Plant and poisoned tap water being distributed to the metro area’s 500,000 homes and businesses. The water was never actually shut off, but the Ohio National Guard and others converged on the area to provide clean water for nearly three days while health officials declared the city’s tap water unsafe for people to drink or make body contact with.

The administration for years steadfastly refused to budge from its position until 1 p.m. Thursday, when it announced its change of heart. It had said all along it wanted to stick to voluntary incentives for cooperation from the agricultural industry on reducing farm fertilizers and other nutrients that foul waterways and help algae grow.



January 31, 2018

Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie LogoPress Advisory                                                                             
Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie
January 31, 2018                 
Contact: Mike Ferner 419-729-7273
                Judith Nemes ELPC 312-795-3706      
Following the USEPA’s admission that it illegally accepted Ohio’s 2016 decision not to list the open waters of western Lake Erie impaired, environmentalists today pressed again in Federal Court for a decision requiring the USEPA to do so within 30 days.
The Environmental Law & Policy Center, together with Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie filed suit in July, 2017 and returned today with a supplemental Motion for Summary Judgment in an effort to compel a mandatory cleanup of Lake Erie, stating the USEPA’s inaction “subverts the very purpose of the Clean Water Act: to promptly recognize and address the type of serious water quality problems currently plaguing Lake Erie.”
The motion, filed by ELPC Senior Attorney, Madeline Fleisher, added that, “The remedy for an admittedly illegal delay is not more delay.  The Clean Water Act and U.S. EPA’s own regulations make this clear.”
On January 15, USEPA provided a “Withdrawal Letter” in which it admitted its 2016 approval of OEPA’s refusal to place the open waters of western Lake Erie on the “impaired” list was not consistent with the Clean Water Act.  The Plaintiff’s motion filed today stated in part (emphasis added):
When a state submits an “impaired waters list” to U.S. EPA, Congress demands that the federal agency “shall either approve or disapprove such listing and loadings not later than 30 days after the date of submission.”  The statute is mandatory and by its terms gives the agency only two options: approve or disapprove.
The law also provides only a single, mandatory remedy in case of disapproval:  the Regional Administrator “shall not later than thirty days after the date of such disapproval identify such waters in such State and establish such loads for such waters as he determines necessary to implement the water quality standards.” 
Congress provided for no other options under the law.  Yet U.S. EPA’s newly invented procedure (Withdrawal Letter) would render the action-forcing nature of the statute wholly ineffective by allowing U.S. EPA to hold a state’s list in legal limbo, thereby circumventing the timelines established by Congress… If the Court does not prevent such illegal delay in this case, there would be nothing to stop U.S. EPA from doing in future cases what it did here:  knowingly approving a deficient state list, then “withdrawing approval” only if and when that action is challenged in court.
It has taken U.S. EPA over a year, and apparently the prospect of this Court’s intervention, to get to the point of acknowledging that Ohio EPA’s approach is not consistent with the Clean Water Act. 
U.S. EPA’s chosen course of action in the Withdrawal Letter only continues this delay.  U.S. EPA meekly “requests” that the state conduct an impairment assessment for those waters “if appropriate” and submit it to U.S. EPA by April 9, 2018 – presumably for yet another round of
Lake Advocates Return to Federal Court pg. 2
review with no timetable and an indeterminate outcome.  U.S. EPA is simply compounding its illegal delay with more of the same, since the CWA requires U.S. EPA to disapprove a Section 303(d) list that does not meet statutory requirements and to then conduct the impairment assessment itself within 30 days…After waiting more than fourteen months to effectually disapprove of Ohio EPA’s deficient 2016 303(d) impaired waters list, U.S. EPA seeks to evade its responsibilities under the Clean Water Act by once again passing the buck back to the state. 



Environment Canada and USEPA report that “measurements of microcystin in Lake Erie were 50 times higher than the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation for safe recreation, and 1,200 times higher than the WHO safe drinking water limit.”


March:  Ohio EPA, in its federally-required, biannual “Integrated Report” to the USEPA, refuses to list western Lake Erie impaired, pending collection of additional data.
August: Elevated microcystin levels in Toledo’s water supply prompt a “Do Not Drink” emergency for 400,000 people over three days.


August: USEPA approves Ohio’s March, 2014 impaired waters list, but “…expects Ohio EPA to fully assess…and to assemble and evaluate all existing and readily available data, including EPA data, for the 2016 Integrated Report and listing cycle.”


July: OEPA’s draft Integrated Report says it will not assess the open waters of western Lake Erie, asserting that the USEPA should be responsible for doing so. 
August: USEPA responds to OEPA’s draft report, rejecting this proposed approach as inconsistent with the Clean Water Act.
September: OEPA repeats its position that it would not “unilaterally develop assessment methods” for its portion of Lake Erie, stating, “we will not discuss or propose further listings until there are [such] scientific tools” to assess impairment available
March: USEPA sends OEPA a letter recognizing that “Ohio has yet to assess the open waters of Lake Erie for algal impairment.” 
May: Regardless of its March letter, USEPA formally approves Ohio’s 2016 impairment list, stating it “has deferred to the State’s judgment not to assess the open waters of the Western Basin of Lake Erie for the 2016 list,” thereby delaying the assessment of the open waters for two more years.  
July: Environmental Law & Policy Center, Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie, Michael Ferner, and Susan Matz file a complaint challenging USEPA’s approval of OEPA’s 2016 impairment list.


January 15: One day before Plaintiffs’ original Motion for Summary Judgment was due to be filed and on a federal holiday – USEPA provided Plaintiffs with its “Withdrawal Letter” in which it admits that its May 2017 approval of OEPA’s refusal to list the open waters of western Lake Erie as impaired was not consistent with the Clean Water Act. 

Federal EPA reverses course on ‘voluntary’ algae reduction plan – Toledo Blade

January 17, 2018

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reversed itself on the western Lake Erie impairment issue, admitting it was wrong to approve a Kasich administration plan that relied on voluntary action to reduce algae-inducing runoff.

The federal agency said in a Jan. 12 letter to Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler it has reevaluated Ohio’s Oct. 20, 2016, submission, which did not recommend an impairment designation for Lake Erie’s open waters. 

While stopping short of agreeing it should immediately designate the lake’s open water as impaired, the letter states officials determined the submission was “incomplete and thus not fully consistent with the requirements” of the Clean Water Act and EPA regulations.



January 17, 2018

See end of Press release for US EPA & Plaintiff documents
Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie
January 17, 2018                 
Contact: Mike Ferner 419-729-7273
                Marj Mulcahy 419-344-8201
                Kathy Mockensturm 419-841-2055     
Last May, the U.S. EPA approved a decision by the Ohio EPA to designate only limited shoreline areas of western Lake Erie “impaired,” refusing to extend that status to the open waters of the western basin and letting Ohio continue with voluntary cleanup efforts despite massive toxic algae blooms every summer.
The U.S. EPA now admits it was wrong to accept Ohio’s decision and environmental groups that filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court want Judge James Carr to order the U.S. EPA to formally rule the western basin impaired and begin a cleanup with mandatory goals and deadlines. 
The Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC), based in Chicago and Toledo-based Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie are co-plaintiffs in that suit filed last July, seeking to overturn the U.S. EPA’s approval of Ohio’s limited decision.   
Today, ACLE expressed hope that this latest development will lead to a mandatory cleanup, particularly of the 700,000,000 million gallons of raw animal waste spread annually on fields draining in to western Lake Erie.  "The current USEPA administration may be opposed to implementing the Clean Water Act, but it is still the law of the land.  With this suit and other actions ACLE intends to make the agency do its job to hold factory farms and other polluters accountable for what they've done to our lake."

Listed below are documents outlining US EPA decision that the data submitted by State of Ohio authorities to support state's decision to support voluntary measures to reduce the pollution that is feeding toxic algae blooms on the lake.was “incomplete and thus not fully consistent with the requirements of Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act and EPA’s regulations.”

1/12/2018 Letter from US EPA to Craig Butler, Ohio EPA Director (at link)

1/16/2018 Letter from attorney for Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) to Carl B. Strokes, U.S. Court House U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Ohio requesting resolution of their Motion for Summary Judgment along with an Order by the Court providing a fully sufficient remedy for U.S. EPA’s admitted legal violation  (at link)





Algae plague raises doubts about voluntary runoff prevention

November 16, 2017

Competing in a bass fishing tournament two years ago, Todd Steele cast his rod from his 21-foot motorboat—unaware that he was being poisoned. A thick, green scum coated western Lake Erie. And Steele, a semipro angler, was sickened by it.

Driving home to Port Huron, Michigan, he felt lightheaded, nauseous. By the next morning he was too dizzy to stand, his overheated body covered with painful hives. Hospital tests blamed toxic algae, a rising threat to U.S. waters.

"It attacked my immune system and shut down my body's ability to sweat," Steele said. "If I wasn't a healthy 51-year-old and had some type of medical condition, it could have killed me."

He recovered, but Lake Erie hasn't. Nor have other waterways choked with algae that's sickening people, killing animals and hammering the economy. The scourge is escalating from occasional nuisance to severe, widespread hazard, overwhelming government efforts to curb a leading cause: fertilizer runoff from farms.


Manure Farmers Dodge Rains to Clear Out Cesspits and Piles, 10.27.17 through 11.15.2017

November 15, 2017

Manure farmers all over Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana are emptying their cesspit lagoons and stockpiles, in a hurry to get that untreated livestock sewage out onto the fields in between heavy rains last week, today, and the heavy rain predicted for the rest of the week.  Lake Erie, get ready – some of this will be on its way to you in no time.
October 27, 2017

Hartland manure application, northeast corner of Beecher and Hughes, stopped application as heavy rain showers came through. Sometimes it takes several days for a complete application of manure to a field and the lingering, putrid smell is made worse by warm temperatures, rains that fall almost daily, and bottom-of-the-pit cesspit contents.

Bakerlads again
Bakerlads again.  North and south of the “2-stage ditch”, west side of Morey between Beecher and Cadmus.  Hmm, no water in the “ditch” here, which his really a tributary to the South Branch of the Raisin, yet there is water in the stream above.  How does this widened, dug out, vegetation-filled engineered structure impact the hydrology upstream and downstream?

Oct. 31, 2017

Terrehaven manure application from stockpile

Terrehaven manure application from stockpile, e. side of Pentecost/Wolf Creek.   Heavy showers came through between the time poop pile appeared and it was spread and incorporated.

Nov. 15, 2017

Stinky, stinky, stinky today in the Clayton, Michigan, area.  Stench blanket far and wide, including a mile northeast at the North Dover Cemetery, where a ceremony was taking place.

Bakerlads slurry and liquid application

Yet another Bakerlads slurry and liquid application, south side of Beecher Rd., just east of Morey Hwy, just north of Bakerlads CAFO.  Liquid manure ponding along edge of field, predicted rain came about an hour after this picture was taken.  This is the third application on this same field that we have known about since spring.

East side of Morey just south of Beecher

Same field as above, around the corner.  East side of Morey, just south of Beecher.
Fields right next to CAFOs sometimes have far too much phosphorus in their soil due to manure over-application and runoff from the barns.  When crops can’t use this excess phosphorus and it leaches out, it becomes a problem downstream because it contributes to Harmful Algae Blooms like the one that caused Toledo’s water intake to shut down in 2014.
Another Bakerlads slurry and liquid manure application
Another Bakerlads slurry and liquid manure application, east side of Morey, south of the facility.

Oregon (OH) City Council wants more action on Lake Erie – WTOL

November 15, 2017


Oregon City Council is drawing a line in the sand.

They unanimously approved a resolution Monday, demanding more oversight of the manure runoff that's impacting our water.

Sandy Bihn said the clock has run out on improving the condition of Lake Erie.

“We can't expect the lake to get bluer, not greener every year," said Bihn.

Bihn is on Oregon City Council, and Executive Director of Lake Erie Waterkeeper. She said the data shows the lake isn't getting better, it's getting worse.  And her fellow council members agree.

They passed a resolution asking the state of Ohio to do 3 things:

  1.  Provide an annual report on the dollars spent, and pounds of phosphorous reduced going into the lake.
  2.  Require all new and expanding mid-sized to large livestock operations to match the lower levels of soil test requirements as commercial fertilizers.
  3.  Promote private and public investment in technology to eliminate phosphorous runoff from manure.

That phosphorous is a major culprit in the toxic green algae that can harm our water source.

Full resolution at Link.


Toxic Algae Bloom on Lake Erie ties for 3rd worst, NOAA 2017 Analysis

November 9, 2017

NOAA Lake Erie Bulletin: 2017 Bloom Analysis

[caption id="attachment_2416" align="aligncenter" width="791"]Experimental Lake Erie Harmful Algal Bloom Bulletin 7 November 2017, Bulletin 35, Seasonal Assessment Experimental Lake Erie Harmful Algal Bloom Bulletin
7 November 2017, Bulletin 35, Seasonal Assessment[/caption]

The toxic algae that spread across Lake Erie this summer roughly matched its third-most severe bloom in 15 years, government researchers said Tuesday, November 7, 2017. The Microcystis cyanobacteria bloom in 2017 had a severity index (SI) of 8,which is a severe bloom .

The algae outbreak on the shallowest of the Great Lakes had two peaks this year in August and again in mid-September, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Researchers said it was roughly equal to the one in 2013. 

It left behind a thick, paint-like scum on the surface that had covered about 280 square miles by September, but the entire bloom was much larger and stretched from Toledo to the shoreline along Ontario, Canada and reached the mouth of the Detroit River, the agency said.

2009-2017 Archives of Harmful Algal Blooms in Lake Erie, Experimental and Operational HAB Bulletin at link.


Stench Alert – October 22, 2017

October 22, 2017

Stench Alert – October 22, 2017

warner20171022AManure tanker parked behind Warner barn at Pentecost Hwy. at Reed Rd. after liquid manure application on 10.21.2017. Stench was noticeable two miles to the west last night.

warner20171022BSame application, different angle. First day of several to come until they finish this huge field, heavy rain in forecast.


Toledo City Council wants Lake Erie declared impaired

October 19, 2017

Toledo City Council Tuesday approved a resolution urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to designate the western basin of Lake Erie impaired — a move already made by other officials including the Lucas County Commissioners and Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson.

Council voted 11-1 in favor of the resolution.

Councilman Peter Ujvagi, who sponsored the council resolution, said it is critical that government addresses the excessive algae problem in the lake.

The condition of the lake has a "critical impact on our future," he said.

An “impaired” designation would give the EPA the power to identify nonpoint sources of pollution in all the watersheds that drain into the lake.

Lake Erie algae toxins caused the 2014 Toledo water crisis that affected about 500,000 residents. The toxins also prompted Michigan in November, 2016, to declare portions of Lake Erie's waters impaired.

Lucas County commissioners and Oregon City Council approved resolution seeking the impairment destination in 2016.