ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE, CANADIAN FRESHWATER ALLIANCE, FRESHWATER FUTURE

For immediate release: September 25, 2017

Environmental groups urge more action to protect Lake Erie following reported toxic algae bloom along Canadian shoreline

Toronto, Ont. – This morning, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that a toxic algae bloom has extended along Ontario’s northwest coast of Lake Erie. This latest bloom is another reminder that more urgent action is needed to improve the health of the lake.

“Year after year, Lake Erie is getting slimed over by algae blooms. These blooms kill fish, and threaten human health. This needs to stop,” said Ashley Wallis, Water Program Manager with Environmental Defence. “The federal and Ontario governments need to step-up and develop, implement, and finance a comprehensive plan for the lake.”

Although algae is a normal and essential part of lake ecosystems, too much algae can pollute beaches, clog water intake pipes, kill fish, and put human health at risk. One of the main causes of the blooms is runoff pollution from agricultural lands, which happens when rain and snowmelt flush fertilizers and manure from farms into waterways.

“When excess nutrients end up in the lake, they cause algae to grow out of control and turn the water a nasty shade of green,” said Raj Gill with the Canadian Freshwater Alliance. “But the problem isn’t just cosmetic. Toxins produced by harmful algae can make the water unsafe for humans to drink or even touch.”

This spring, the federal and Ontario governments released a draft plan for reducing nutrient runoff entering Lake Erie. However, the draft plan proposes few new activities or approaches to reduce runoff from agricultural and rural areas. It also lacks timelines and performance metrics needed to keep the plan on track.

“We can’t continue to do the same thing and expect different results,” said Nancy Goucher with Freshwater Future. “We need to improve laws to reduce nutrient pollution and make investments that help farmers follow those laws and implement on-the-ground solutions”.

This latest bloom demonstrates that current actions aren’t enough. Lake Erie supports a multi-billion dollar economy. Without action, algae blooms could cost the local economies upwards of $272 million annually.

The groups hope that governments will move quickly to reduce the runoff pollution causing these frequent and severe algae blooms that threaten the health of the lake, and the businesses, communities, and aquatic life that rely on it.

ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is Canada’s most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.

ABOUT FRESHWATER FUTURE (freshwaterfuture.org): Freshwater Future works to ensure the healthy future of our waters in the Great Lakes region. We help citizens engage in efforts to protect our natural environment by providing grants and offering consulting assistance to diverse communities and collaborators.

About the CANADIAN FRESHWATER ALLIANCE (freshwateralliance.ca): The Canadian Freshwater Alliance builds, connects and supports freshwater initiatives across Canada. We work with NGOs, community groups, governments and businesses to strengthen citizen voices and participation in protecting our lakes and rivers. We are a project on the Tides Canada shared platform (http://tidescanada.org/).

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For more information or interview requests, please contact:

Jen Mayville, Environmental Defence Canada, 416-323-9521 ext. 228, (905) 330-0172 (cell),jmayville@environmentaldefence.ca

Nancy Goucher, Freshwater Future, (647) 891-0388,nancy@freshwaterfuture.org

Raj Gill, Canadian Freshwater Alliance, (705) 329-3357,raj@freshwateralliance.ca