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Rep. Sheehy issues statement on GOP bill to increase penalties for sewage dumping in Lake Erie

Says blame for harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie does not fall squarely on municipalities' sewage dumping
July 26, 2021
Michael Sheehy News

COLUMBUS- Today, State Rep. Michael Sheehy (D-Oregon) issued the following statement after legislation was recently announced by Rep. Jon Cross (R-Kenton) to increase penalties for dumping raw sewage in waterways that flow into Lake Erie:

“I am extremely frustrated and deeply concerned with the amount of raw sewage Maumee has dumped in the Maumee River over the last 20 years. Ohio’s struggles against these harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie has put a strain on the people and businesses who rely on the health and well-being of the lake. We all remember when Toledo enacted a tap water ban in 2014 as a result of these harmful algal blooms, which affected over 400,000 residents.

“However, recently announced legislation to mitigate these algal blooms does not take into account the full scope of the issue at hand.

“Cities, villages, and other municipalities should be held responsible for violating their agreements with the Ohio EPA and dumping absurd amounts of sewage into Lake Erie, but we cannot lay the blame solely at their feet. Laws are already in place to deal with situations like this, and I am open to improving those laws, but not without addressing agricultural runoff. Studies conducted over the past decade have consistently shown that runoff from agricultural nutrient applications is the most significant contributor to phosphorus loading in the Western Basin of Lake Erie. When manure is over applied to farmland as a fertilizer, any excessive nutrients, such as phosphorus, will make their way through the watershed to Lake Erie. While H2Ohio has brought the issue of nutrient loading to statewide importance, we still have not made significant progress toward the 40 percent phosphorus reduction in Lake Erie that both the Kasich and DeWine Administrations agreed to. 

“Lake Erie is our state’s most vital natural resource, and all Ohioans should have a vested interest in protecting its health. This legislation appears to miss the mark by targeting a small aspect of phosphorus loading in Lake Erie while ignoring the largest contributors.”