Lucas County: Consent decree in lake dispute lauded

Larry Limpf

A tentative agreement to settle a lawsuit between the Lucas County commissioners and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is a major step toward improving Lake Erie and its watershed, the commissioner said last week.
The agreement was reached last week in U.S. District for the Northern District of Ohio. The commissioners and the Environmental Law and Policy Center filed a lawsuit in 2019, alleging the U.S. EPA wasn’t meeting its obligations under the Clean Water Act regarding the impaired status of the lake.
The complaint argued the Ohio EPA was violating the act by not submitting a Total Maximum Daily Load plan to the federal EPA. A TMDL is the calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant allowed to enter a waterbody so that the waterbody meets water quality standards for a particular pollutant.
In particular, the ELPC and commissioners were looking for a plan to reduce phosphorus and other nutrient pollution that contribute to the formation of harmful algal blooms.
“We made this challenge on behalf of the citizens of our region who deeply care about one of the world’s most valuable resources – our Lake Erie,” Tina Skeldon Wozniak, president of the board of commissioners, said. “The tentative agreement for a consent decree is momentous in that it gets us one step closer to achieving the success we desired when we filed the lawsuit and that is to reduce the nutrient run-off that causes the harmful algal bloom in Lake Erie.”
Commissioner Pete Gerken said the board has “remained vigilant” to holding the EPA accountable to fulfill its legal obligation.
In 2017, the ELPC and Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie filed a lawsuit against the U.S. EPA for not enforcing the Clean Water Act. The Ohio EPA later declared western Lake Erie “impaired,” which would have triggered the required TMDL plan. Instead, the state adopted voluntary guidelines to reduce phosphorus run-off.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit argued the measures were inadequate and were joined in the legal dispute by the commissioners.
Earlier this year, Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie changed the name of the organization to Lake Erie Advocates and started a billboard and social media campaign this summer to focus attention on the effect Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations have on Lake Erie and its watershed.
The campaign featured billboards in Toledo, Cleveland and Columbus.


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