Twenty-five people came out to an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency hearing Wednesday night to learn what the Army Corps of Engineers plans to do with the silt it plans to dredge from the Toledo shipping channel in 2014.
Those who spoke know the Corps has to keep the shallow Port of Toledo open; they object to open-lake silt disposal.
The longstanding practice draws ire from scientists who believe open-lake disposal contributes to western Lake Erie’s algae blooms and harms fish reproduction by stirring up sediment laden with phosphorus.
“This is almost an exercise in futility,” said Terry Shankland, a board member of Partners for Clean Streams. “The Corps of Engineers is God, and we have to do what they say. Until we have a problem with our drinking water or Canada comes down here, it’s not going to stop.”
The region did have a problem with its drinking water in September. For the first time in Ohio history, a municipal water-treatment plant — one that serves 2,000 residents of Ottawa County’s Carroll Township — became so overwhelmed by toxic algae it was forced offline.
“I don’t ever want to have to go through that again, where I can’t drink the water,” said David Spangler, a Carroll Township resident and member of the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association.
The Ohio EPA failed in past attempts to phase out open-lake disposal. Certificates it issued with that goal were overturned by the Ohio Environmental Review Appeals Commission at the Corps’ request. Records show the Corps has been increasing the amount it puts back into the lake, not reducing it.
This year, the Corps wants permission to dump as many as 1.5 million cubic yards of sediment in western Lake Erie, up from 1.1 million cubic yards it dumped in 2013.
The silt goes to a designated spot in North Maumee Bay.
The Ohio EPA is taking written comments through Feb. 5.
An amendment inserted into a pending bill by state Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green) would provide $1 million to help develop alternatives to open-lake dumping.
Residents said they are frustrated the Corps gets until July 1 to turn over sampling results for dissolved reactive phosphorus content in the sediment, a key to understanding how much — if at all — open-lake disposal contributes to the algae growth.
The tests were required in the 2012 certificate.
Contact Tom Henry at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6079.