In 2014, residents of Toledo awoke to news that they could not drink, bathe or wash dishes with the city’s water supply after an algae bloom had coated the surface of Lake Erie in a noxious green slime.
The bloom has returned to Lake Erie, year after year, in varying sizes and places. The cause? Pollution, primarily from farms, that is rich in nutrients that feed algae growth.
Nutrients like phosphorus are a key ingredient in plant growth, but when too much enters a waterbody-- from excess fertilizer and animal waste--- it can trigger an explosive growth in algae. When the algae dies, it absorbs oxygen in the water which creates dead zones and leads to the die-off of aquatic plants and animals.
The good news is that with the right policies and practices we can manage the volume of nutrients entering our waterways. Commercial farms are responsible for a majority of the runoff that fuels Lake Erie’s toxic algae blooms. MEC’s goal is to encourage farmers to adopt voluntary conservation measures that reduce nutrient loading, while also pushing for conservation standards that are proven to protect water quality. We are also working to address other causes of nutrient loading, including failing septic systems and sewer overflows.