Algae On Federal Government’s Radar

Essex MP Jeff Watson, August 5, 2014. (Photo by Adelle Loiselle.)

Essex MP Jeff Watson says new guidelines to control agricultural runoff could be coming to help control algae blooms in the Great Lakes like the one that prompted a tap water ban in Toledo.

The mayor of the U.S. city recently told 400,000 residents not to drink tap water after officials found a toxin called microcystin in the drinking water supply. The toxin was traced back to a large algae bloom in Lake Erie.

Watson says the recent proliferation of algae is not the same as the flora that caused problems in the Great Lakes in the 1970s, so the federal government is working with Ontario, conservation areas and landowners to find science-based ways to control it. Unfortunately, he says it’s limited what Canadian authorities can do. “This is, I will say, predominately a U.S. runoff issue. Agricultural runoff from northwestern Ohio, out of the Maumee River,” he says. “We obviously want to be working with our American partners on bi-national targets.”

Back in 2012, the federal government committed $16-million over four years under the Great Lakes Nutrient Initiative to come up with ways to mitigate the factors leading to algae blooms.