Environmental groups are calling on governments to do more to protect Lake Erie from algal blooms
WINDSOR, ONT. -- Algal blooms forecasted in Lake Erie are a cry for more work to be done to save the great lakes, environmental groups say.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced its forecast for the 2020 harmful algal bloom season on Lake Erie Thursday. The bloom this year is predicted to have a severity level of 4.5 and the potential to reach 5.5 out of 10.
“This year’s forecast shows that we’re not making nearly enough progress on saving Lake Erie,” Kelsey Scarfone, Water Program Manager with Environmental Defence said in a news release. “We need governments to get serious about addressing phosphorus pollution if they want to prevent billions of dollars’ worth of damage caused by Lake Erie’s annual algal blooms.”
Though there has been some progress — last year’s forecast was at a 7.5 severity level — environmental groups: Environmental Defence, Canadian Fresh Water Alliance, and Freshwater Future Canada say it’s not enough. They are calling on the provincial and federal governments to “step up to the plate to protect the lake.”
“Excess phosphorus, mainly from agricultural lands, continues to wreak havoc on the lake and its tributaries on both sides of the border,” the release states.
The MPP for Chatham-Kent Leamington says the province and federal government are working jointly to reduce phosphorus on farmland - and out of waterways by improving wetland conservation - and upgrading wastewater treatment and collection systems.
Rick Nicholls say the Canada-Ontario Lake Erie Action Plan is reviewed and revised as needed over time to ensure continued progress towards achievement of targets.
Still, the three environmental groups say the Canada-Ontario Action Plan for Lake Erie has not seen much progress, with details of the plan — which was finalized in 2018 — still not available to the public.
The Ontario and federal governments along with the U.S. counterparts made a commitment to tackle algal blooms to reduce the amount of run-off entering the lakes. Last June a target of 40 per cent reduction of phosphorous in Lake Erie by 2025, and a target of 20 per cent by 2020 was set. The target has not been achieved the release states.
The blooms in Lake Erie consist of blue-green algae which can produce the liver toxin microcystin which can pose a risk to wildlife and humans. It can also result in higher costs to treat drinking water and prevent people from enjoying the lake which would impact local tourism, the NOAA website states.
“A healthy lake is vital for wildlife, drinking water, and our economy,” said Raj Gill, Great Lakes Program Director at the Canadian Freshwater Alliance. “COVID-19 has hit our recreation, tourism, and service sectors hard. Now is the time to invest in projects that restore natural areas, reduce pollution, and allow people to enjoy all that Lake Erie offers.”