Protect Citizens from Poisoned Drinking Water

agricultural runoff

Target: Craig Butler, director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency

Goal: Demand an increased focus on protecting Lake Erie against sewage overflows and agricultural pollution

The Cuyahoga River fire of 1969 helped inspire passage of the Clean Water Act. Decades of pollution had culminated in a permanent oil slick just waiting for a spark. Lake Erie, fed in part by the Cuyahoga River, continues to struggle with the environmental impact of runoff from the region’s industry and agriculture. An ongoing and toxic algae bloom visible from space led to a recent tap water ban in Toledo, Ohio. Clearly, this is a situation demanding swift and committed action.

An article in the Toledo Blade described the reaction of Toledo City Councilman Larry Sykes upon seeing the lake turned pea-soup green. “He seemed utterly dumbfounded how such a beautiful body of water could be transformed into sheer ugliness virtually overnight, fouled by a toxic form of algae known as microcystis that is fed by excessive phosphorus from farm runoff, lawn fertilizers, and sewage overflows.”

Environmental journalist Suzanne Goldenberg has written extensively about the situation. She points out that Lake Erie receives more phosphorus than any of its neighboring Great Lakes, and emphasizes the impact of invasive species and climate change on erosion along the lake’s shores. The algae thrive in a low-oxygen environment inhospitable to other forms of marine life. Chemically intensive farming has contributed to massive “dead zones” in the Gulf of Mexico, and now threatens the very drinking water a half-million Ohio residents depend on.

Call on the state’s environmental regulators to take swift action to protect the quality of Lake Erie’s precious water. Increased regulation of chemical fertilizers, sewage overflows and other threats must be made a top priority.


Dear Mr. Butler,

Lake Erie has long been troubled with toxic algal blooms, although they have grown more severe in recent years. Toledo residents were temporarily advised not to drink their tap water because of rampant algae growth as recently as August, 2014. And while the water has been declared safe to drink, for now, the conditions which led to the crisis continue, guaranteeing future issues for Ohio residents.

The lake is more than just a crucial source of drinking water. It also supports tourism and other industries, as well as a struggling and complex ecology. Fortunately the cause of these destructive algal blooms is well documented. Agricultural runoff and raw sewage dump toxic amounts of phosphorous into the lake each and every day. Without regulating these threats to water quality, Ohio will continue to wrestle with the many consequences of a poisoned Lake Erie.

I call on you to make the protection of the lake a top priority for you and your agency. Demand increased regulation of sewage discharge, chemical fertilizers and agricultural runoff to ensure future residents of your great state can enjoy Lake Erie and the many benefits its waters provide.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Alan Liefting via Wikimedia Commons

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