New study pinpoints sources of nutrient runoff into Lake Erie

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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Back in early 2017, the city of Toledo and Lucas County commissioners launched an ambitious project: the "Nutrient Source Inventory". The program aims to narrow down the largest contributors to nutrient runoff into Lake Erie. 2 years later, nearly 6 million acres have been fully mapped and modeled, and officials presented their findings at One Government Center this afternoon.

Tina Skeldon Wozniak, president of Lucas County Commissioners, stated "what we found was, throughout the western Lake Erie Basin -- through various agricultural issues, or through 'combined animal feed operations' --that there are harmful nutrients getting into the lake and contributing to the algal bloom."

Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz says improvements in the last 2 decades have ensured no raw sewage is seeping into the lake from Toledo, though the amount of manure runoff in western Lake Erie is more than the total human waste from Chicago and Los Angeles combined.

"We know who's causing this problem," the mayor says, "and it's not the city of Toledo, it's not Lucas County residents. This problem is being caused by agriculture runoff in other parts of the state. The city is paying for a problem that other people have caused."

Commissioner Gary Byers stresses these findings aren't meant to paint a picture of inaction on part of Ohio farms, saying that "[farmers] care about the land and Lake Erie as much as anyone else. We just need to work together and enable them to make the right decisions to reduce this runoff."

While extra state and federal funding will help, officials say it's not the sole solution. Mayor Kapszukiewicz offers that "all the money in the world won't solve the problem without accountability, without standards, without regulations."

For a look at the project's extensive results, use the Nutrient Source Inventory mapping tool.