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Source: The Buffalo News

Ohio’s plan to fight toxic algae not enough to lessen threat to Buffalo’s water supply, officials say

BY T.J. PIGNATARO
NEWS STAFF REPORTER

Posted: June 13, 2016
Originally Published: June 10, 2016

Environmental agencies in Ohio need to do more to reduce toxic algae in Lake Erie or it could threaten the eastern part of the lake near Buffalo, local environmental groups and state Assemblyman Sean Ryan said Friday.

“Buffalo is dependent on Lake Erie for our drinking water,” Ryan told a press gathering at Times Beach. “If the toxic algae blooms continue to spread, Buffalo and Western New York could be at risk. It is clear that Ohio has not gone far enough, and New York is threatened by Ohio’s inadequate plan.”

Ryan and local groups urged the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen its policy to reduce toxic algae.

Ohio will require farms to voluntarily certify phosphorus reductions on their land. But that doesn’t go far enough to reduce nutrient runoff into the lake, according to Ryan, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, Alliance for the Great Lakes and Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

Phosphorus is one of the chief ingredients in the proliferating algal blooms that have inundated the western end of Lake Erie in recent summers, including one that temporarily shuttered the drinking water plant in Toledo in 2014.

In February, the states of Michigan and Ohio, along with the province of Ontario, agreed to reduce phosphorus by 20 percent by 2020 and 40 percent by 2025.

Jill Jedlicka, the executive director of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, said drinking water supplies are tied directly to the health of their source.

In the case of many Western New York communities, that’s Lake Erie.

“Combined with the uncertainty of climate change impacts on the lakes, we cannot know when or how harmful algal blooms will impact our community,” Jedlicka said.

So far, none of Lake Erie’s harmful algae bloomed on New York’s shores. One bloom, however, appeared just 90 miles away in Presque Isle Bay in Erie, Pa., a few years ago.

“There’s no barrier on the Great Lakes,” Ryan said. “It’s our lake. All of ours. New York’s. Ontario’s. Michigan’s. Ohio’s and Pennsylvania’s.”