ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE, CANADIAN FRESHWATER ALLIANCE, AND FRESHWATER FUTURE CANADA

For immediate release: July 11, 2019

Environmental groups call for urgent action to protect Lake Erie following NOAA algae bloom forecast

The groups say the federal and Ontario governments need to work together to save the lake.

Toronto, Ont. – Environmental groups are calling the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) forecast of a significant algae bloom for Lake Erie a reminder that federal and provincial efforts to address runoff pollution into the lake have been woefully inadequate.

NOAA predicts this year’s bloom, forecasted to be 7.5 out of 10 on their index, will be much more severe than 2018. The severity could range from 6 to 9 on the scale, and has the potential to be one of the worst blooms since 2015.

“This year’s forecast shows that Lake Erie’s algae problem is dire,” said Kelsey Scarfone, Water Programs Manager with Environmental Defence. “We need governments to get serious about addressing phosphorus pollution if they want to prevent billions of dollars’ worth of damage caused by Lake Erie’s now annual algae blooms.”

The main cause of the blooms is phosphorus runoff from agricultural lands. The Ontario and federal governments, and their U.S. counterparts, have made commitments to tackle algae blooms by reducing the amount of runoff pollution entering the lake. The Ontario and federal governments are now several months overdue in implementing the commitments in the Canada-Ontario Lake Erie Action Plan.

“Work plans to implement the Action Plan were due months ago, but they still haven’t been completed,” said Raj Gill, Great Lakes Program Director with the Canadian Freshwater Alliance. “We simply can’t afford these delays. At this rate Ontario will fail to meet its pollution reduction commitments by the 2025 deadline, and it is putting incredible stress on Lake Erie.”

Algae blooms cause beach closures, kill fish, and add additional water treatment costs. According to a recent study, if action isn’t taken to solve this problem, algae blooms could cost the Lake Erie basin economy upwards of $297 million per year. The study also found that costs could hit $5.8 billion by 2050 if governments fail to intervene.

“It is clear from today’s announcement that we need to be moving swiftly to address the algae blooms plaguing Lake Erie,” said Jill Ryan, Executive Director of Freshwater Future Canada. “Ontario and Canada must step up to the plate and release their work plan to combat this increasingly severe threat to our drinking water, tourism and recreation, and the Lake Erie ecosystem”.

The groups call upon the federal and Ontario governments to take swift action to reduce runoff pollution and fight the increasingly frequent and severe algae blooms that threaten the health of the lake, for the people and fish that depend on it.

About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.

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 (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

Lindsay Telfer, Canadian Freshwater Alliance, (705) 770-1331 (cell), lindsay@freshwateralliance.ca 

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