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 industrial farm operations, 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. Industrial farms are responsible for a majority of the runoff that fuels Lake Erie’s toxic algae blooms. We are pushing for required 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.
Listen to Tom Zimnicki, MEC program director for groundwater, surface water and agriculture discuss the current reality of animal waste protections in our Capitol Connection webiar.