To force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to protect communities and businesses from harmful algal blooms that have plagued Lake Erie for years, a coalition of businesses, conservation advocates, and sportsmen groups sued, asking a federal judge to order the agency to carry out its duty under the Clean Water Act.
“We hope the lawsuit is a catalyst for the EPA to fulfill its responsibility under the Clean Water Act so that state and federal public officials can start putting solutions in place to curb harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie that are harming our drinking water, jobs, and way of life,” said Mike Shriberg, Great Lakes regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation. “Continuing to kick the can down the road will only make the problem worse for Lake Erie, our environment and our economy. This is a problem that you can literally see from space.”
The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Washington, D.C., is in response to U.S. EPA’s failure to accept or deny Ohio’s decisions on whether Lake Erie is “impaired,” a Clean Water Act designation that means that the water quality does not meet legal standards for fishing, swimming, and drinking. An “impaired” designation forces state and federal partners to put in place an action plan, enforceable under the Clean Water Act, to restore it to health. Despite poor water quality and Michigan’s decision to list its portion of Lake Erie as impaired, Ohio decided not to list the open waters of the western basin of Lake Erie as impaired.
Under the Clean Water Act, every two years states submit a list of impaired waters to the EPA, which the agency must by law accept or deny within 30 days. The process is instrumental in helping local communities, states, and the nation identify unhealthy waters so actions can be taken to improve the health of rivers, lakes and streams. The U.S. EPA has not acted on Ohio’s list, which was submitted in October 2016.