For immediate release: July 12, 2018

Significant algae bloom in Lake Erie should serve as wake-up call for action, warn environmental groups

Toronto, Ont. – The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) significant algae bloom forecast for Lake Erie is a sad reminder that green slime is the new normal for the once-clear lake.

Over the last decade, Lake Erie has suffered from increasingly frequent and severe algae blooms, thanks in part to a lack of enforcement of existing pollution prevention laws. The blooms threaten drinking water, clog intake pipes, suffocate fish, and deter tourists – and without action may cost the local economy upwards of $272 million annually.

“Ontarians need clean water,” says Ashley Wallis with Environmental Defence Canada. “Lake Erie provides drinking water to millions of people and supports a multi-billion dollar economy. If governments don’t take action to keep nutrient pollution out of the lake, these blooms are going to keep happening.”

Algae blooms happen when there is too much phosphorus in the water. In Lake Erie, the majority of phosphorus enters the lake as runoff pollution from agricultural lands. Earlier this year, Canada and Ontario released a plan to tackle algae blooms in Lake Erie. But, the plan doesn’t adequately address agricultural runoff, relying mainly on voluntary actions from the agricultural sector.

“It’s great to see the agricultural sector taking voluntary action to curb nutrient pollution, but we know from Michigan and Ohio that voluntary programs aren’t enough,” says Raj Gill with Canadian Freshwater Alliance. “We need to enforce existing laws that limit runoff pollution from agricultural lands.”

In 2014, Ontario’s Auditor General found that less than three per cent of the farms with nutrient management plans were inspected by the province. And of those farms half weren’t following the rules.

“Once again the science is telling us that Lake Erie is in trouble. This year’s algae forecast should be a wake-up call for government,” says Jill Ryan with Freshwater Future Canada. “We aren’t going to clean-up the lake unless we take serious and sustained action to keep phosphorus out.”

Tomorrow, Environmental Defence will be hosting a Facebook Live panel discussion about what the announcement means, and what needs to happen next. Join us on Environmental Defence’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/EnvironmentalDefenceCanada) at 12pm EST on Friday, July 13th.

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 CANADA (freshwaterfuturecanada.ca): Freshwater Future Canada 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:

Rachel Kitchin, Environmental Defence Canada, (416) 323-9521, ext. 246, (416) 805-0026 (cell), rkitchin@environmentaldefence.ca

Jill Ryan, Freshwater Future (Canada and U.S.), (231) 348-8200, jill@freshwaterfuture.org

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