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Lake Erie experts mull whether Ohio and U.S. EPA should designate Lake Erie as impaired

The question on everyone's mind: do the water experts who participated in the forum believe it's now Ohio's turn to take action?

PORT CLINTON, OH (WTOL) - The algae season has come and gone for Lake Erie.

The Lake Erie Fall Forum at Catawba Island was planned long before Michigan declared its Lake Erie waters impaired on November 10.

Now, the question on everyone's mind: do the water experts who participated in the forum believe it's now Ohio's turn to take action?

Around 100 people attended the conference on Friday, eager to hear more about harmful algae blooms threatening our drinking water.

Lake Erie Waterkeeper Sandy Bihn, also of the Lake Erie Foundation that hosted the event, praised Michigan officials for listing the lake there as impaired.

"It looks like a duck, it walks like a duck, it's impaired. There's no one that can debate that," Bihn said after the conference ended.

Bihn is convinced a similar move in Ohio could bring mandatory reductions in phosphorous, but others at the conference were not as sure.

Dr. Jeff Reutter of the Ohio Sea gr ant sees benefits of it but doesn't want a voluntary 40 percent reduction by 2025 to suffer.

"If we could achieve the target that we've set through Annex 4, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the U.S. and Canada, there's a path forward where we wouldn't have to make that designation," said Dr. Reutter.

Margaret Kalick, an assistant professor in the department of food, agricultural, and biological engineering at the Ohio State University, also isn't demanding an impairment designation.

"I think the impairment could help. It could help direct funds and energy in this direction," Kalick said. But she added, "I don't know that it's absolutely necessary to achieve the targets. I'll leave that up to the policy makers at this point."

The experts at the conference all seemed to agree that there is a new wave of excitement for an impaired designation in Ohio after demands this week by Congresswomen Marcy Kaptur and Debbie Dingell for the U.S. EPA administrator to take action, but there is still no commitment from government leaders in Columbus.

When Bihn was asked if she is optimistic a designation could be declared in Ohio if state leaders aren't supporting it, she said, "Ohio's not, but I'm cautiously optimistic that U.S. EPA might do it."

On Thursday, Toledo mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson sent a letter to President-elect Donald Trump asking for an executive order to protect Lake Erie.