Warning from Toledo’s 2014 water crisis goes unheeded


In testimony at an Ohio EPA public hearing in Bowling Green, on Thursday, Lake Erie Advocates (LEA) members will cite research reports showing that OEPA’s recommendations to stop the yearly poisoning of the lake by Microcystis bacteria, or toxic algae, are “totally and undeniably inadequate and too little, too late.”

The OEPA hearing will air comments on the agency’s draft TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) program, a document to satisfy Clean Water Act requirements that it delayed for at least a decade.

“For the hundreds of thousands of Toledoans who had no water for three days in August, 2014 and waited for a plan to get Lake Erie healthy again, the OEPA’s recommendations are a deep disappointment as well as proof, if any more was needed, how corruption in Columbus reaches all the way to Lake Erie,” said Mike Ferner, LEA organizer.

LEA called the Ohio EPA document “too little, too late” because:

1)      It does not consider reducing the billions of gallons of liquid manure from some 25 million animals confined in over 800 factory ‘farms’ that’s dumped, untreated on farm fields, and assumes that amount will increase over time.

2)      It refuses to use the latest, best available science and insists on measuring only Total Phosphorus (TP) to determine results.  For over a decade, scientists have found that Dissolved Phosphorus (DP) or Soluble Phosphorus is what fuels the lake’s toxic blooms every summer.

“Clearly, OEPA’s first priority is to let the Farm Bureau and industrial ag interests continue governing Ohio’s environmental policies. In distant second place is protecting the health of Lake Erie. That’s not going to change until enough people demand such corruption ends,” Ferner added. “Nobody else will talk about the factory ‘farm’ elephant in the room so we will and this hearing is the time to do it.”

“Instead of reducing the amount of liquid manure, OEPA recommendations rely almost exclusively on expensive, ineffective ‘H2Ohio’ programs like no-till, buffer strips, grassed waterways and manure injection.  We’ve reviewed the scientific literature and found such programs have not significantly improved water quality and never will,” Ferner concluded. “We will cite chapter and verse from those studies at the public hearing.”

The studies referred to are from academic and government sources such as Purdue University, Kansas State University, the USDA and the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences. They conclude the H2Ohio practices provide only minor reductions and can often result in even higher levels of DP getting into waterways from manure applications.

For over four years, LEA was a plaintiff in the Federal Court suit to compel the EPA to enforce the Clean Water Act.  But after researching what they consider the fraudulent claims of H2Ohio and seeing the TMDLs relying almost exclusively on them, the group decided to withdraw from the suit in December, 2021.

Written comments can be submitted to the OEPA until March 8, at this link EPATMDL@epa.ohio.gov.