An Ohio task force has called for a 40 percent cut in the amount of phosphorus washing into Lake Erie.
Phosphorus is the chemical found in fertilizers and untreated sewer water, and it’s blamed for feeding harmful algal blooms in the lake.
Reaching that target would eliminate or at least significantly reduce harmful algal blooms in the lake, the report says.
The blue-green algal blooms referred to in the report are actually created not by algae but by a bacteria, a cyanobacteria that puts a toxin into the water. The lake experienced a record harmful algal bloom in 2011 that was fed by heavy rains, but the blooms in 2012 and this year were smaller.
State officials, in a conference call with reporters to publicize the release of the report, said efforts will concentrate on reducing the amount of phosphorus entering the lake as the result of water running off of farm fields.
The report says the Maumee River is the source of much of the phosphorus going into the western basin of the lake. It sets reduction targets of about 40 percent for phosphorus going into the river.
Money has been targeted to farmers in Henry, Wood, Putnam, Defiance and Hancock counties, encouraging them to adopt practices that will lessen phosphorus runoffs, including following good practices for fertilizer application and using conservation practices to reduce runoff, such as putting in grass strips next to farm fields.
However, similar actions should be taken to reduce phosphorus in other rivers and streams from Monroe, Mich., to Sandusky that put phosphorus into the western basin of Lake Erie, said Jeff Reutter, director of Ohio Sea Grant.
While the report concludes that farm runoff is the main source of phosphorus in the lake, it also discusses phosphorus placed into the lake by local government treatment systems.
Scott Nally, director of the Ohio EPA, said his agency has been working with local governments and industry to reduce phosphorus loads.
The report says that combined sewer overflows — overflows of untreated sewage water, which overwhelms the sewer system and flows into the lake during rainstorms — are a particular problem in the areas of Cleveland, Akron, Toledo, Fremont and Sandusky.
“Sandusky completed a wastewater treatment plant expansion in 2010 to increase the wet weather capacity from 36 million gallons a day to 42 million gallons a day,” the task force report says. “Sandusky submitted a revised long term control plan in December 2012 and is currently negotiating storage, conveyance and pump upgrades.
The Sandusky long term control plan will also be completed in 2020.”