LORAIN — Local officials met Wednesday with the Ohio Environmental Council to raise awareness about the dangers of algal blooms in conjunction with World Water Day.
Mayor Chase Ritenauer said the blooms, which are fed by fertilizer and chemicals ending up in Lake Erie after heavy rainfall, had adverse effects on the city of Toledo in 2014 and Lorain County communities want to make sure the same doesn’t happen here.
“We need to think of this as an issue that would affect our health and economy,” Ritenauer said. “We have to speak up. If we’re not coming together with one voice, we’re not going to get any movement on this. We agree that clean water is important, but the bottom line is these are coming from industrial agriculture, and we have to require that they do their part.”
Ritenauer said businesses like bait and tackle shops, kayak shops and charter boats all stand to be affected as well as the city’s less-mobile residents who aren’t able to leave the area to get freshwater.
“When you look at poverty levels, these are the people who need us to protect Lake Erie,” he said. “If we don’t start working together on this, we’re putting their lives in danger as they won’t have access to fresh water.”
Ohio Environmental Council Clean Water Director Adam Rissien said Lorain City Council, along with Elyria City Council and the Lorain County commissioners, passed legislation last week supporting changes to Ohio Revised Code that would:
- Require industrial agriculture companies develop and follow plans that will reduce algae-causing pollution and specifies best management practices;
- Limits nutrient applications to only what crops need to grow optimum yields;
- Improve compliance with pollution laws resulting in more effective enforcement that relies less on citizen complaints;
- Establishes numeric limits to the concentration of chemicals that increase the likelihood of algal blooms.
“We need bold action to make sure the lake can provide clean water and safe beaches,” Rissien said. “The resolutions call for common-sense safeguards while ensuring the agricultural sector remains strong and that Lake Erie remains the jewel of Ohio.”
Elyria Councilman Marcus Madison, D-5th Ward, said it’s key for the communities of Lorain County to work together on this because Lake Erie is a key source for drinking water.
“The overload of chemicals and things that flow into the lake that cause this issue is something we’re trying to create awareness of,” he said. “The toxins released from the blooms are more dangerous than cyanide and contaminate our water. Our communities become less safe when this is present, and we can’t afford to continue on this course.”