Each year, my children ask me to take them to the Ohio River, where my mother in-law and her boyfriend have a campsite, and Lake Erie to swim, fish, and boat. Generally we have something going on during the weekends that precludes us from travelling to either location, which I admit, begrudgingly, gives me some comfort.
The problem is that Lake Erie, the Ohio River, and many rivers, streams, and lakes in between are at a tipping point. These waters are highly polluted with phosphorus, which spurs toxic algae growth. In fact, there is so much phosphorus and nitrogen running off the landscape, that in 2010 more than 14 lakes were contaminated with massive growths of algae. One lake, Grand Lake St. Marys, experienced an extreme toxic algal bloom that caused thousands of fish, birds, and other wildlife to perish, including three dogs. One man was sent to the intensive care unit with neurological disorders from contact with algae from washing his dog.
Many people might recall the day in 2011 that Lake Erie made the cover of National Geographic. The picture showed a boat propelling through the thick “pea-green soup” called Microcystis, a form of blue-green algae. Toledo, Ohio was infamously put on the map in August of 2014, when nearly half a million residents in the greater Toledo area could not use their tap water for nearly three days due to a toxic algal bloom contaminating nearby Lake Erie. One can understand why I worry about my young children swimming in these lakes, rivers, and streams.
There are many sources of excess phosphorus. The main culprit, however, is corporate agriculture. Excess livestock manure and chemical fertilizer applied to farm fields make corporate agriculture the largest sources of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in watersheds dominated by crop and livestock production. In the western Lake Erie basin, science shows that approximately 85 percent of the algae-causing phosphorus pollution flowing into Lake Erie is from farm field runoff from corporate farms.
Over the years, small, but important progress has been made to reduce the amount of phosphorous flowing off farm fields in Ohio. Unfortunately President Trump’s proposed budget will undo any of the progress made in Ohio and threaten the very streams, rivers, and lakes Ohioans use as a source for their drinking water, swim in, and boat. The president’s budget wages a full on attack on key funding programs helping to reduce the amount of toxic algae plaguing our waterways.
SLIDESHOW: What Ohio stands to lose under proposed cuts to environmental programs
Flip through the slides below to see which programs are threatened and how this will impact Ohio.
No parent should worry about whether the tap water they are giving their children is contaminated with toxic algae. President Trump’s proposed budget puts Ohioans’ drinking water, boating, fishing, swimming, health, and our economy at risk. We know a healthy environment leads to a healthy economy. We all depend on clean drinking water for prosperous and healthy lives. Our congressional members now must stand up for Ohioans and our water needs. They need to be the reasonable voice and fund these programs at base funding at the very least. Nothing could be more important than the security of our drinking water and economy. Please call your Congressional member today at (202) 224-3121.