Tell the EPA to Declare Lake Erie "Impaired"!
It’s not even summer yet and the algae
that plagues Lake Erie and many inland lakes is already causing trouble.
The suffocating, sometimes poisonous growth fed mainly by nutrient runoff
from agriculture—including animal waste from factory farms—typically causes
havoc later in the season. Yet, on June 3 an algal bloom containing microcystin
in the Maumee River near Defiance, OH prompted a “no contact” advisory
warning against swimming and wading for children, pregnant or nursing
women and pets. This is the same toxin that poisoned the Lake Erie water supply
for a half-million people in Toledo and southern Michigan in 2014.
The Defiance water warning
happened one day after Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central
Michigan (ECCSCM) recorded dangerous levels of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) in the
air of Lenawee County. The pollution came from manure particles
released when waste from local factory farms was sprayed on fields, a common
practice that can also lead to runoff in waterways. ECCSCM members found
outdoor H2S readings exceeding OSHA Worker Safety and US ArmyCorps of Engineers permissible exposure levels, which they posted on their
website, www.nocafos.org. Breathing at
the levels they recorded is considered dangerous, and some members had to
leave their home for days.
Though miles apart, these
incidents are connected by the Western Lake Erie Watershed, which encompasses
both the Maumee River, the largest tributary to Lake Erie, and Michigan’s
Raisin River in Lenawee County. As shown in the Less=More Coalition’s
groundbreaking report, Follow the Manure:
Factory Farms and Lake Erie Algal Blooms, the watershed contains 146
factory farms with nearly 12 million livestock that annually generate over 630
million gallons of waste containing dissolved phosphorus that feeds toxic
algae. Some of it originates in Lenawee and Hillsdale Counties where ECCSCM
members choked on toxic air earlier this month, and eventually joins the waste
from dozens of animal factories in the Maumee headed for Lake Erie.
water pollution are the hidden costs of a heavily subsidized industrial food
system that churns
out deceptively cheap food. Less=More, a sustainable agriculture
coalition led by Sierra Club, is tackling the unfair playing field created
by taxpayer subsidies and working to shift support away from polluting
factory farms to sustainable agriculture.
This is a long-term solution, but our government could take a big step right now by declaring Lake Erie an
“impaired watershed” for nutrients like phosphorus. This federal
designation would set a quantitative standard called a Total Maximum Daily
Load that could be consistently measured, and regulations could be created
and enforced to meet this standard. Michigan currently has phosphorus standards
for industry and wastewater treatment plants but none for agriculture.
Join us in
calling for action on Lake Erie today! Call or email U.S. EPA Region 5 (Great
Lakes Region) Director Robert A. Kaplan and urge him to declare Lake Erie
"impaired." Call or email TODAY: (312) 886-3000 or firstname.lastname@example.org