Bob Downing

A U.S.-Canadian panel on Thursday called on Ohio and Michigan to declare the waters of western Lake Erie to be impaired from nutrient pollution.

Such an action is needed because of phosphorous triggering growing toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie, said the International Joint Commission.

More than 50 American and Canadian scientists have been analyzing the Lake Erie algal problem for the commission for the last two years.

It is made up of three appointed commissioners from the U.S. and three from Canada. Its role is to protect the waters that the U.S. and Canada share.

Such state declarations would trigger what’s called a Total Maximum Daily Load program. That would establish the maximum amount of phosphorus that western Lake Erie can receive from numerous sources. A reduction plan to produce cleaner water would also be drafted and adopted.

The major source of phosphorus to Lake Erie is farm runoff that drains into the Maumee River in northwest Ohio, plus Detroit sewage that drains into the Detroit River and sediments from Toledo’s harbor that are dumped into the lake.

“So much is at stake, from our economy to human health,” said Kristy Meyer of the Ohio Environmental Council in a statement. “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Environment Canada have a duty to residents to develop a TMDL or TMDL-like plan for nutrient reduction and ensure that states and provinces are implementing the plan.”

Lake Erie was hit by a monster algal bloom in 2011. It stretched from Monroe, Mich., east to Cleveland. A 2012 drought kept the algae from being a major problem. It again bloomed in 2013. Ohio has had toxic algal problems at numerous inland lakes in recent years.

The new report, A Balanced Diet for Lake Erie: Reducing Phosphorus Loadings and Harmful Algal Blooms, also includes 16 recommendations to boost water quality in western Lake Erie.

The report is available at www.ijc.org.

Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or bdowning@thebeaconjournal.com.