Lake Erie impaired, but for how long?

Lake Erie impaired, but for how long?
(Source: WTOL)

Last week the Ohio EPA officially declared its waters of western Lake Erie impaired. 

But what thresholds were met to make this classification? And how can the waters get declassified with a clean bill of health?

The process will use satellites to track any harmful algae blooms between July and October. If one-third or more of western Lake Erie of Ohio's waters are covered by a bloom more than a quarter of this time, that year will be flagged. 

"If that season was flagged we look at a rolling 6-year window and if any 2 years are flagged during that 6-year window then Lake Erie is given that designation of impaired." says Dr. Tim Davis. 

Dr. Davis, associate professor of biological sciences at BGSU, is one member in a group of researchers, tasked by the state of Ohio, to decide what formally lists western Lake Erie as impaired or not. Scientists from BGSU, Ohio State and the University of Toledo complete the team.

Based on the newly set standard, 5 of the last 6 years would have been in violation. 2012 was the last time blooms were small enough to stay below yearly impairment standards. 
Moving forward what would need to happen for Lake Erie to be REMOVED from impairment? 

Time and more work throughout the watershed.  

Since 2017 was above the threshold, waters need to have a minimal bloom for the next 5 years for the impairment designation to be dropped. 

"Lake Erie based on what we have seen is impaired and is going to be impaired for several years until watershed nutrient mitigation strategies start taking effect. We start seeing a reduction in the amounts of nutrients coming into Lake Erie. Then we will see Lake Erie move out of this impairment." Added Dr. Davis. 

Anyone interested in viewing the entire draft report that declares Lake Erie officially impaired from the Ohio EPA can do so here.

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