It is obvious there's a problem with the lake.
The federal government is concerned and putting the squeeze on states to do something about it.
Back in 2000, the feds threatened Toledo with a lawsuit if it did not improve its water plants to protect Lake Erie.
Commissioner Pete Gerken said, Tuesday, "We took action because there was a standard set, action was required."
The federal government had the teeth to enforce that plan because it involved sources the government can regulate.
But an impairment declaration is different.
Ken Kilbert is an envrionmental law professor at the University of Toledo. He says, "The federal government, under the Clean Water Act, is not currently allowed to regulate non-point water sources."
That means farmland.
Critics say farmland runoff is responsible for 70-80 percent of the pollutants that end up in the lake.
But the feds have no power over farmland; the state does...
The feds can create what's called a *Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) schedule and that can lead to a plan to limit the amount of phosphorous discharged into the lake.
But it's a plan and nothing more.
Kilbert says, "The state does not have to enforce that TMDL and indeed, USEPA cannot enforce that TMDL."
And an impairment declaration does not mean more federal dollars to clean the lake unless the president allocates money by an executive order.
Toledo mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson has sent three letters to the president asking for money.
Said says the city needs that money, "in order to get the attention and support we need to reduce the pollution in our lake."
So far, no response. But local lawmakers *are unified in talking* about impairment.
Kilbert says, "The more we talk about it, the better it is. But action would be better than words."