Lawsuit To Get EPA To Do Its Job For Lake Erie

Lake Erie, July 28, 2015. (NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens)

A coalition of six environmental groups in the U.S. has filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up western Lake Erie.

The section of Lake Erie is within the boundaries of the State of Ohio, the same area that has suffered algal blooms affecting the quality of drinking water in Toledo. On the Canadian side of the border, algal blooms have plagued Pelee Island and the shores of Leamington.

The lawsuit filed back in December does not seek monetary damages. It would compel the EPA to declare all of western Lake Erie unfit for fishing, swimming and drinking. Portions of the lake that fall within the State of Michigan’s boundary are already declared “impaired.”

The State of Ohio submitted a report to the EPA about its waterways of concern but left out the lake’s western basin. It argues it has spent $1-billion over the past six years to clean up the tributaries that feed the lake.

Under the Clean Water Act, the federal agency has 30 days to approve or deny a state’s report. The deadline has passed, and the EPA has not acted.

If it does designate the western basin, local, state and federal officials will be forced to come up with a pollution reduction plan.

“Our concern is that the United States Environmental Protection Agency hasn’t taken the next step,” says Jennifer Caddick of the Alliance of the Great Lakes, one of the six environmental groups named in the lawsuit as plaintiffs. “They’ve just been basically sitting on this issue.”

Caddick says failure to restore the lake is a public health problem. She points the millions of people who live along the shores of Lake Erie.

“Using the Clean Water Act tools, which unfortunately Ohio is not doing right now, could open a whole new toolbox of options to address this severe pollution problem,” she says.

Along with the Alliance, the National Wildlife Federation, the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, Lake Erie Foundation, the Michigan United Conservation Clubs and the Ohio Environmental Council are named as plaintiffs.

The lawsuit is not related to a White House proposal to eliminate funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.