Green Blob Threatens Cleveland

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A toxic blob is lurking outside Cleveland – and it’s getting closer.

I’m referring to the massive algae bloom that now routinely develops in Lake Erie – the product of unregulated farm pollution. Although it will not be as large as the record-setting algae bloom of 2015, which covered 300 square miles, experts warn that it’s moving east.

Watch out, Cleveland!

Farm pollution from farms in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan ignite a chain reaction that fuels the growth of the algae, threatening drinking water supplies and robbing Lake Erie of oxygen when the algae dies and decomposes.

Almost 50 years ago, Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River was so polluted the river was literally on fire. This environmental disaster sparked the passage of a federal law regulating pollution from factories and waste water plants.

But, unlike pollution from factories and other “point sources,” farm pollution was left unregulated by the Clean Water Act. Farmers can allow manure and fertilizers to wash off their fields, straight into the rivers that feed Lake Erie.

The result? Water so polluted that residents of Toledo could no longer drink the water last summer.

Instead of setting a pollution rule for farmers, Congress has poured more than $40 billion into voluntary incentive programs, including voluntary programs in the Lake Erie basin.

Have they worked? Ask the blob.

Algae blooms fueled by farm pollution are now so common – the bloom in Florida’s Lake Ockeechobee is so big it can be viewed from space – that meteorologists are learning how to make algae forecasts.

Though no longer called the “Mistake on the Lake,” maybe Cleveland should be worried about about the mistake in the lake. 


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