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Published: Thursday, 9/23/2010

Activists press Ohio to bolster algae war

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Sixteen environmental and conservation groups - several of them national in scope with a Great Lakes presence - Wednesday called on Gov. Ted Strickland and four of Ohio's top legislative leaders to step up their efforts in the war against algae.

The groups issued a letter with a 10-step strategy calling for stronger monitoring and pollution controls. In addition to Mr. Strickland, letters went out to Ohio House Speaker Armond Budish (D., Beachwood), Senate President Bill Harris (R., Ashland), House Minority Leader William Batchelder (R., Medina), and Senate Minority Leader Capri Cafaro (D., Hubbard).

The recommendations included the establishment of baseline nutrient loadings for all Ohio lakes, rivers, and streams; management plans for waterways with excessive levels, and support for a proposed rule to ban the application of liquid manure on frozen ground in "distressed watersheds."

The groups also called for restrictions of manure and commercial fertilizers on frozen ground, as well as on phosphorus in mature lawn fertilizers.

More federal funding was urged so that sewage overflows after rain events can be phased out more quickly through improvements to municipal wastewater systems. The groups also called for the federal government to end the longstanding U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' practice of dumping Toledo's dredged shipping-channel sediment back into the open water of western Lake Erie.

They said Heidelberg University's National Center for Water Quality should get a more stable stream of money to continue phosphorus testing it has done in the Maumee and Sandusky rivers since 1975.

The group called for more public forums for individuals, farmers, businesses, sewage-plant operators, and government officials to collaborate on ways to keep fertilizer-enhanced runoff from entering streams.

Ohio officials offered no immediate response but said in their daily status report blue-green algae continues to be a problem.

An advisory for toxins remained in effect at Maumee Bay State Park and East Harbor State Park, among other sites.

This is the first year Ohio began testing for toxic algae at beaches along Lake Erie and several inland lakes. Microcystis, a toxic form of algae that killed 75 people in a Brazil kidney-dialysis center in 1996, has bloomed in the western basin of Lake Erie almost annually since 1995. The blooms have appeared earlier and stayed longer in recent years, with forecasts for a record outbreak this summer.

It normally dissipates by early October. But an exotic form of algae discovered a few years ago, lyngbya wollei, is hardy enough to survive Ohio winters.

Contact Tom Henry at:

thenry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6079.



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