In August I wrote a blog post about the extensive eutrophication-induced Harmful Algal Bloom in Lake Erie which made Toledo’s water supply undrinkable and beaches unusable. Those of you who read my original post may remember that I’m from Cleveland, OH, and therefore have a historical interest in Lake Erie’s long-standing eutrophication problem. In fact, I did my undergraduate dissertation on this very subject.
This week I was excited to read that, on February 21st, the Ohio Senate committee approved a bill to tackle the phosphorus-driven HAB problem in Lake Erie. The bill will prevent farmers from spreading manure on frozen and water-saturated fields and will also restrict the dumping of dredged sediment in the lake. I’m happy to see that the Ohio legislature is working towards implementing management measures to remediate HABs in Lake Erie, but this is not a sure thing as the bill still may not pass the Ohio House. My questions is, what took them so long to even start seriously considering such management measures? In the EU manure application amounts and rates have been regulated for more than a decade through our Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the regulations of individual Member States’ which my be even more strict than those of the CAP. Plenty of scientific research in the last 20 years have shown that the agricultural sector is the primary sector responsible for the introduction of phosphorus to the Baltic, Black and North Seas and that many eutrophication-driven European HABs were fuelled by excess phosphorus. The good news is that our management measures for agricultural fertilizer application are working and phosphorus levels are decreasing in European seas and rivers.
I hope the bill passes the Ohio House and Lake Erie experiences a similar decline in eutrophication-related symptoms as we’ve seen in Europe, I just wish it hadn’t taken so long for management measures to be implemented.
Good luck, Lake Erie!
Abigail McQuatters-Gollop, Plankton and Policy