On 26 September 2017, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite captured this natural-color images of a large phytoplankton bloom in western Lake Erie. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the bloom contains microcystis, a type of freshwater cyanobacteria. These phytoplankton produce toxins that can contaminate drinking water and pose a risk to human and animal health (skin irritant, respiratory distress) when there is direct contact. Photo: Joshua Stevens / NASA Earth Observatory

On 26 September 2017, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite captured this natural-color images of a large phytoplankton bloom in western Lake Erie. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the bloom contains microcystis, a type of freshwater cyanobacteria. These phytoplankton produce toxins that can contaminate drinking water and pose a risk to human and animal health (skin irritant, respiratory distress) when there is direct contact. Photo: Joshua Stevens / NASA Earth Observatory

By James F. McCarty
11 October 2017

(The Plain Dealer) – Approaching the end of another summer marked by a substantial algal bloom in Lake Erie's western basin, environmental and conservation groups released separate reports Tuesday that came to the same conclusion:

Ohio, Michigan and Ontario are falling far short in their efforts to reduce and eliminate the seasonal menace.

"The longer we wait to start putting algae-causing, pollution-reduction measures into practice, the worse the problems will become," said Kristy Meyer, vice president of policy for the Ohio Environmental Council.

Meyer was responding to a new report released Tuesday, Rescuing Lake Erie: An Assessment of Progress, that examines how Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario are responding to the goals of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement they signed two years ago.

The agreement committed the states and Canadian province to reduce phosphorus discharges by 40 percent between 2015 and 2025. In 2008, Ohio released 1,400 metric tons of phosphorus into Lake Erie. A 40 percent reduction would be about 860 metric tons of phosphorus, or roughly the same amount as released in 2010. Gov. John Kasich and the other group leaders are scheduled to meet next week at the 2017 Leadership Summit in Detroit.

In a separate response, Gail Hesse, director of the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes water program, posted a critique on the agency's blog. In the past two years, she said, the states and province have failed to offer workable solutions necessary to reduce phosphorus pollution and shrink the algal blooms.

"It is time for the federal and state agencies to … commit to milestones with time frames and be accountable for meeting phosphorus loading targets for Lake Erie," Hesse wrote.

"The draft plans released to date include many useful initiatives, but all fall far short of providing any assurance that the proposed actions add up to meeting the 40 percent reduction target. The plans read like a grocery list without a recipe," she wrote. [more]

Lake Erie algal bloom cleanup falling short of 40 percent phosphorus reduction goal

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