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Ohio Phosphorus Task Force Releases Updated Report, Recommendations

The Ohio Phosphorus Task Force II has issued its final report on findings to support reduction of phosphorus loading and associated harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie and surrounding watersheds. Recommendations include the development of loading targets for the Maumee River watershed and other Lake Erie tributaries, expansion of current phosphorus monitoring programs, and working with area stakeholders to improve soil health, nutrient retention, and proper timing and placement of applied fertilizers.

In addition to improving water quality throughout the Lake Erie watershed, recommended measures could lead to cost savings for farmers due to reduced need for fertilizer, improve public health as combined sewer systems are updated to reduce overflows, and build on previous successes in reducing phosphorus content in commercial lawn care products. The task force will continue to meet on a regular basis to continue evaluation and publication of state and regional phosphorus management efforts.

Task force members at the press event, held at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in Columbus, included Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Nally, Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Jim Zehringer, and Ohio Department of Agriculture Director David Daniels, along with Gail Hesse – Executive Director of the Lake Erie Commission, Dr. Jeff Reutter – Director of Ohio Sea Grant & Stone Lab at The Ohio State University, and Terry McClure – a prominent farming leader in northwestern Ohio.

Phosphorus, which is contained in animal manure and many commercial fertilizers, tends to be the nutrient that determines how much harmful algae can grow in Lake Erie.

“This report gives us an excellent road map for moving forward in phosphorus management in the Lake Erie watershed,” Dr. Reutter said. “The challenge will be on the implementation side, that is to implement the 20 recommendations in this report.”

Harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie most often consist of Microcystis, a cyanobacterium – more commonly called blue-green alga – and can produce a number of toxins harmful to the ecosystem, animals and people. The toxins can be removed from drinking water drawn from the lake, but increases the cost of water treatment. In addition, harmful algal blooms can severely reduce tourism income, as recreational water use is made hazardous by the toxin, or unpleasant by layers of blue-green algae floating on the water’s surface.

For more information about the report, contact Gail Hesse at gail.hesse@lakeerie.ohio.gov or Dr. Reutter at reutter.1@osu.edu.

The report is available at lakeerie.ohio.gov/Portals/0/Reports/Task_Force_Report_October_2013.pdf.


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