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Protecting Toledo’s Drinking Water


8/6/2014

Joyce grantees propose next steps to protect the drinking water in Toledo and communities across the Great Lakes region.

For more than two days, half a million people in Toledo, Ohio couldn’t drink water from their kitchen sinks. Why? Phosphorous and harmful chemicals from farms had polluted Lake Erie and an algal bloom formed, releasing toxins into the water. Residents in nearby Carroll Township could sympathize. Just last September, the tiny town of 2,000 banned drinking water due to another algal bloom. If nutrient pollution – the chemicals from farms that flow into the lake – is ignored, Toledo will be just one of many communities to experience a drinking water ban. The problem isn’t limited to Ohio either. Algal blooms are threats to communities across the Great Lakes region, where more than 30 million Americans rely on the lakes for drinking water. With communities, policy makers and the media focused on the issue, a group of Joyce Foundation grantees—Alliance for the Great Lakes, American Rivers, Freshwater Future, National Wildlife Federation and the Ohio Environmental Council—released a statement calling for swift action and also set forth a series solutions to prevent further nutrient pollution to protect Americans’ water supply.

Groups urge swift action to reduce nutrient pollution, protect Great Lakes

Toledo drinking water crisis showcases pollution threat, urgent need for action

(August 5, 2014) – Although the immediate crisis in the city of Toledo has passed, the threat to drinking water supplies in Toledo and other Lake Erie communities has not. The same factors that led to nearly 500,000  Lake Erie residents not being able to drink the water for two days will return until measurable reductions in nutrients, particularly phosphorus, are implemented on a clear and  swift timetable. Nutrient pollution is a clear danger not only to our drinking water, but our way of life and economic well-being.  While the Great Lakes region is focusing on developing a “blue economy” for the Midwest, we must realize that this new economic future cannot stand with national headlines declaring Great Lakes water unsafe to drink. Until we stop polluting our lakes, our economy, drinking water and way of life are in jeopardy. 

The algal bloom “season” on Lake Erie is just getting under way and is forecast to continue into October. Due to previous damage to the lake, invasive zebra/quagga mussles that exacerbate the concentration and intensity, and the effects of a changing climate, the nutrient pollution problem will likely get worse if we do nothing. This is a problem that is being felt most acutely in Lake Erie, but it is well-entrenched in locations throughout the Great Lakes region.

Fortunately, the problem is not out of our control. It is preventable. It is unacceptable that our region has chosen to pollute Lake Erie so significantly that drinking water for approximately 11 million Americans and Canadians is at risk. We can change this. Swift action by the governors of Great Lakes states and Premier of Ontario is needed to implement measurable reductions in nutrients, particularly phosphorus, on a clear timetable to protect our region’s health, economy and quality of life.

Action Agenda for Reducing Nutrient Pollution and Securing Safe Drinking Water for Lake Erie Communities

Many initiatives currently exist to reduce nutrient pollution into Lake Erie and our nation’s waters, such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Farm Bill, and these programs must continue. However, much more needs to be done. The action agenda includes recommendations for new or improved international, federal and state policies to reduce nutrient pollution.

Download the Action Agenda.

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