A second federal lawsuit has been filed against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the agency’s refusal to rule on whether western Lake Erie should be designated as impaired.
Today, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, along with local activists Michael Ferner and Susan Matz, filed a suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio against the EPA, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, and EPA Region 5 Administrator Robert Kaplan, according to a press release. This follows a similar suit filed in April by a coalition of conservation and business groups that was filed in U.S. district Court for the District of Columbia.
“ELPC filed a lawsuit in a district court in Toledo because this is the city where 500,000 lost their drinking water for 72 hours in 2014,” said Madeline Fleisher, ELPC staff attorney in Columbus.
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Both suits are based around the Kasich administrations refusal to declare the open water of western Lake Erie as impaired. The state has listed small parts of Lake Erie near Toledo's water intake, as well as parts of the shoreline and areas around Lake Erie islands as impaired.
The groups argue the U.S. EPA is obligated under the Clean Water Act to rule on Ohio’s list of impaired waters. The federal agency approved Michigan's list, which — for the first time — included western Lake Erie as impaired. Michigan announced last year it was designating its much smaller portion of western Lake Erie as impaired, an action the federal agency has not taken issue with.
During former President Barack Obama's administration, the coalition of groups asked the U.S. EPA to rule on the list with the hope that western Lake Erie would be designated as impaired. But the agency took no action.
An impairment designation would put the watershed on a program akin to a pollution diet under the agency's TMDL — Total Maximum Daily Load — system. Proponents claim that would lead to more accountability and help pinpoint sources of algae-forming phosphorus, nitrogen, and other nutrients that enter the lake.
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