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Protecting Our Water: Government leaders attend annual Lake Erie Waterkeeper conference

On Friday, dozens of government leaders and environmentalists came to the W.W. Knight Nature Preserve for the Lake Erie Waterkeeper's annual conference.

(WTOL) - On Friday, dozens of government leaders and environmentalists came to the W.W. Knight Nature Preserve for the Lake Erie Waterkeeper's annual conference.

Waterkeeper Sandy Bihn said a reliable source has told her that tens of millions of chickens are being brought to farms along the Maumee River watershed, bringing massive amounts of animal waste.

"It's not for food for us, necessarily, it's food to be exported, which again is their business and we respect that, but you can't keep producing more and more manure and putting it on the ground," said Bihn.

She says the manure can seep through the ground and into the watershed, causing algae blooms.

Verna Harrison is the former assistant secretary for the Chesapeake Bay and Watershed Programs in Maryland. She's also concerned about the increase in animal waste here and called for better ways to manage it; like this manure storage shed WTOL reported on in the Chesapeake Bay area last fall.

"That's a definite solution and USDA will pay for that. (So you think that needs to be done here in Ohio?) Absolutely. (Do you wonder why it's not?) Well you wonder a lot of things," said Harrison.

She's pushing for regulations in Lake Erie similar to ones that helped reduce the algae threat in the Chesapeake Bay, daily load limits on phosphorous called TMDLs.

"You can declare the Lake as an impaired body. There can be lean EPA TMDL that provides the tools, the accountabilities, the milestones, the consequences for not acting," said Harrison.

Harrison also talked about the Flint water crisis. She blames state officials in Michigan for not taking action against the lead contamination.