Government Report Says Great Lakes in Bad Condition, Lake Erie Worst of the Bunch


  • Maumee Bay, 2014, Eric Sandy

The relative health of the Great Lakes, or lack there of, is no secret, but a new report from the EPA and its Canadian counterpart puts a fine point on the perilous situation the largest collective body of freshwater in the world is in.

According to the State of the Great Lakes 2017 Highlights Report, agricultural runoff and pollution, algal blooms and the overall loss of habitat plague all five lakes, but Lake Erie in particular. The report designated the fair shores of Lake Erie the worst and in deteriorating shape.

That shouldn't come as a surprise residents of Ohio and Michigan, who have seen the effects firsthand, most notably in the 2014 massive algal bloom that saw Toledo shut down its water supply to 500,000 people. Michigan's environmental agency declared its portion of the Erie shoreline "impaired," while the Ohio EPA declined to issue such a designation, even though officials in Lucas County have pleaded for such action that would trigger regulations. The state has argued those would be harmful and unneeded restrictions that would impair voluntary incentives.

The Feds come down with Ohio on this one — they declined to designate the lake impaired in May — despite opposition from Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman — and Trump's budget plans put the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which funds quality oversight, runoff mitigation, habitat preservation and more, directly in its crosshairs. Which is all the more weird when the EPA is saying the Great Lakes need dire help.

"As the report makes clear, progress is being made—but serious threats remain," National Wildlife Federation scientist Michael Murray said in a statement. "Lake Erie's deteriorating health serves as a warning that public officials on both sides of the border cannot let their guards down. The millions of people who rely on the Great Lakes for their drinking water, health, jobs and way of life are counting on public officials to continue to make Great Lakes restoration and protection a top priority."

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