Groups praise Michigan's decision to protect Lake Erie
Michigan environmental groups on Thursday praised the state's designation of its portion of the Western Lake Erie Basin as an impaired watershed under the Clean Water Act, a decision with potential to dramatically reduce nutrient pollution and improve water quality.
Excess phosphorus from agricultural runoff and other sources triggers toxic algae blooms, degrades Lake Erie as a recreational resource and threatens ecosystem health. To date, voluntary nutrient reduction programs for farmers have been ineffective in reducing nutrient loading in the watershed. The new impairment designation opens the door to stronger protections and enforcement measures.
"This is major decision that will speed up efforts to reduce phosphorus runoff and restore a healthy ecosystem in western Lake Erie," said Chris Kolb, president of the Michigan Environmental Council. "The impairment designation means regulators can now take an inventory of where phosphorus is coming from, set limits to ratchet down nutrient pollution and create plans for accountability and enforcement.
"In other words, this decision basically moves us from talking about cleaning up Lake Erie to really doing something about it," Kolb added.
The impairment designation is "excellent news," according to Pam Taylor, a volunteer with Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan, a watchdog group that monitors water resources and reports water quality violations from factory farms.
"One of the best things about the impairment designation is that resources can now be directed to those efforts that will be most effective," Taylor said. "Personally, I hope we see close attention to some of the unique conditions in Western Lake Erie Basin. These include reducing dissolved reactive phosphorus, which comes from a vast network of sub-surface drain tiles in farm fields where manure and chemical fertilizers are applied."
Michigan Environmental Council
(517) 420-1908Pam Taylor