Lucas Co Commissioners weigh in on TMDL draft in effort to protect Lake Erie

The draft plan is an effort to reduce nutrients going into Western Lake Erie from the Maumee...
The draft plan is an effort to reduce nutrients going into Western Lake Erie from the Maumee River watershed.(WTVG)
Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 6:48 PM EST
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - The Lucas County Commissioners gave the Ohio EPA their input Wednesday on its water quality improvement plan on the proposed developments for the Maumee Watershed Nutrient Total Daily Load (TMDL) draft, the commissioners said in a statement.

The draft plan is an effort to reduce nutrients going into Western Lake Erie from the Maumee River watershed. The comments are part of an effort to resolve a lawsuit by the the commissioners and the Environmental Law & Policy Center filed in 2019 against the EPA to force the Ohio EPA to comply with the Clean Water Act to reduce agriculture pollution entering Lake Erie, the commissioners said.

Ohio EPA has until the end of June to finalize the TMDL plan under the proposed consent decree between the parties. The US EPA must then either approve the TMDL or create its own.

Read the commissioners’ statements to the press below.

Comments from Commissioner Pete Gerken: In our constant fight to clean up Lake Erie and the Maumee River basin, we have won a battle but certainly we have not won the war. The consent decree creating this TMDL is a great accomplishment and it took years to achieve. Now, the next battle starts. To be effective this must happen: Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) must have permits to operate and permits must be enforced, and the overall TMDL must have enforcement teeth. Governor DeWine has done a good job with the H2Ohio program. But, we will face new challenges with CAFOs because they will resist. The TMDL needs to be the tool to measure CAFOs and ensure accountability. This cannot be a voluntary process. It has to be measurable, tangible, and enforceable. Otherwise, we will lose the next battle.

Comments from Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak: An effective TMDL, and one that mandates nutrient-reduction goals to ensure accountability, has been our objective for many years. It is critical that the draft TMDL not lack the necessary steps to reduce agriculture phosphorous runoff into Lake Erie and place limits on dissolved reactive phosphorus. We shouldn’t be fooled into settling for half measures and voluntary practices any longer. We are talking about the health of our most valuable resource, and we must have a meaningful TMDL to protect it. Harmful algal blooms imperil Lake Erie and threaten our drinking water, fishing, recreation, tourism and many other uses.

Comments from Commissioner Lisa Sobecki: We are asking the Ohio EPA to develop a TMDL that will move the needle forward on water quality in Lake Erie, and a TMDL that demands accountability from all sources of nutrient causing algal blooms with enforceable standards will be the only way to accomplish that. Cleaning up Lake Erie is going to require government action with teeth and there must be enforceable limits on pollution to measure progress over the coming years. This will go a long way to achieving the necessary outcome of a cleaner Lake Erie. Immediate actions needs to be done. If we continue to do nothing then we will be unable to preserve our lake.

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