County commissioners to put water sustainability plan in place - Toledo News Now, Breaking News, Weather, Sports, Toledo

County commissioners to put water sustainability plan in place

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LUCAS COUNTY, OH (Toledo News Now) -

Lucas County commissioners are taking new steps to protect the water after a special meeting was held Thursday.

The commissioners say they will need help from state and federal leaders to implement a program that will protect northwest Ohio's drinking water. They're calling on the federal government to adopt a plan put together by the International Joint Commission (IJC), and to start making changes.

The plan lists 16 things that can be done to protect the water, including banning phosphorous fertilizers, requiring septic system inspections, and increasing water monitoring stations.

"Scientists know what the problem is," said Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak. "Now it's an opportunity for the state and local government to do their part and to provide that assistance to protect the lake."

The commissioners will also be putting a local sustainability plan into place immediately to find out where pollutants are.

But it's not just about the water source. Commissioners say we need to focus on the treatment facility, as well. They say they'll be funding a study to look at the possibility of a new regional plant.

"That plant was virtually built in the ‘30s and has tried to be maintained for 70 or 80 years," said Commissioner Pete Gerken. "They probably need some help."

Commissioners say this isn't just about our drinking water. They say the lake's condition and water quality impacts our economy as a whole, and it's important to take care of it.

From the IJC plan:

The IJC established the Lake Erie Ecosystem Priority (LEEP) in 2012 to tackle problems in Lake Erie as a result of phosphorous, climate change and invasive species.

LEEP released a report of their findings after a study of the lake. In that 100-page report, LEEP offered advice on how federal and regional governments in the United States and Canada can adopt policies to reduce nutrient loads and restore Lake Erie's ecosystem.

Based on the LEEP study's analysis and key findings, the IJC recommends the following actions:

Setting Phosphorus Reduction Targets

1. The Governments of the United States and Canada should adopt new targets for maximum acceptable phosphorus loadings in Lake Erie:

• to reduce the frequency and severity of harmful algal blooms in the western Lake Erie Basin to an acceptable level (None/Mild blooms), the total phosphorus load target for the Maumee River for the spring (March-June) period should be established as 800 metric tonnes (MT), a 37% reduction from the 2007-2012 average; for dissolved reactive phosphorus, the target for the spring period should be 150 MT, a 41% decrease from the 2007-2012 average; extended over the course of a full year, the total phosphorus target should be 1,600 MT, a 39% decrease from the 2007-2012 average;

• when the rest of the watersheds in the western Lake Erie Basin are included, the total phosphorus load target for the spring should be 1,600 MT and the dissolved reactive phosphorus target should be 300 MT; extended over the course of a full year, the total phosphorus target should be 3,200 MT;

• to decrease the central Lake Erie Basin hypoxic area by 50% to about 2,000 km2 (772 mi2) and 10 hypoxic days a year, the target total phosphorus load for the western basin and central basin should be 4,300 MT, a 46% reduction from the 2003-2011 observed average load and 56% below the current target;

• when expressed as annual dissolved reactive phosphorus load, the target for achieving the same hypoxic area (2,000 km2) and number of hypoxic days (10) in the central Lake Erie Basin should be 550 MT. This new level represents a 78% reduction from the 2005-2011 average dissolved reactive phosphorus load; and,

• total phosphorus and dissolved reactive phosphorus targets should be phased in over a nine-year period (2014-2022) by setting transitional targets on a three-year basis to coincide with the triennial cycle and assessment of progress outlined in the 2012 Agreement.

2. To establish and implement new targets of phosphorus loadings:

• the governments of the United States and Canada should develop domestic action plans including both regulatory and non-regulatory measures to reduce nutrient pollution of Lake Erie sooner than the 2018 goal set in the 2012 Agreement;

• the governments of Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Ontario should apply a public trust framework consisting of a set of important common law legal principles shared by both countries, as an added measure of protection for Lake Erie water quality; governments should apply this framework as an added decision-making tool in policies, permitting and other proceedings; and,

• the governments of Michigan and Ohio should, under the United States Clean Water Act, list the waters of the western basin of Lake Erie as impaired because of nutrient pollution; this would trigger the development of a tri-state phosphorus total maximum daily load (TMDL) involving those states and Indiana, with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency oversight.

Reducing Phosphorus Loading into Lake Erie from Agricultural Sources and Septic Systems

3. The Governments of the United States, Canada, Ontario, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York should immediately expand the focus of existing and planned incentive-based agri-environmental programs beyond particulate phosphorus to include an emphasis on best management practices that are most likely to reduce dissolved reactive phosphorus, such as reducing the amount of phosphorus applied to fields, slowing the movement of water to the field drainage system, and detaining flows at field drainage outlets.

4. Future phosphorus management efforts of the Governments of the United States, Canada, Ontario, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York should focus on:

• avoiding agricultural applications of phosphorus in autumn;

• reducing the load delivered during the spring period (March 1 to June 30); and,

• those sub-watersheds that are delivering the most phosphorus into the lake, including the Maumee River.

5. The Governments of the United States, Canada, Ontario, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and local agencies should increase the scale and intensity of agricultural best management practices programs that have been shown to reduce phosphorus runoff.

6. The Governments of the United States, Canada, Ontario, Michigan and Ohio should:

• commit to the goal of a 10% increase by 2030 beyond current levels of coastal wetland areas in the western basin of Lake Erie to reduce nutrient pollution and promote biodiversity (an increase of about 1,053 ha or 2,600 acres);

• allocate adequate funding to support this significant first step in coastal wetland restoration, in concert with non-governmental funders; and,

• set a science-based goal for protection and restoration of wetlands inland from the Lake Erie coastal zone and develop appropriate strategies to meet the goal.

7. The Governments of the United States, Canada, Ontario, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York should strengthen and increase the use of regulatory mechanisms of conservation farm planning to reduce nutrient loadings.

8. The Governments of the United States, Canada, Ontario, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York should accelerate 4Rs (Right source, Right rate, right time and right place) outreach/extension programs, and phase in mandatory certification standards for agrology advisors, retailers and applicators to ensure fertilizer is applied based on the 4Rs.

9. United States and Canadian federal policies should link the cost and availability of crop insurance purchases or premiums to farm conservation planning and implementation of nutrient management practices.

10. The Governments of Ontario, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York should ban the application of manure, biosolids and commercial fertilizers containing phosphorus from agricultural operations on frozen ground or ground covered by snow for lands that drain to Lake Erie.

11. The Governments of Ontario and Michigan should:

• enact legislation requiring inspection of septic systems at regular intervals, and at the time of property sale or land severance, to identify and assure upgrade/replacement of failing and potentially failing systems; and,

• expand state/provincial and community education initiatives promoting homeowner awareness of the need for septic system maintenance, including regular pumpout, and upgrade/replacement.

Reducing Phosphorus Loading into Lake Erie from Urban Sources

12. The Governments of the United States, Canada, Ontario, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania should work with municipalities to promote and accelerate the use of green infrastructure (such as filter strips, rain gardens, bio-swales, and engineered wetlands) in urban stormwater management in the Lake Erie Basin by:

• providing funding, regulatory direction and technical support to municipalities and, where feasible and appropriate as an alternative to more expensive stormwater controls, authorize green infrastructure in United States municipal water discharge permits and Ontario environmental compliance approvals; and,

• encouraging the adoption of local ordinances/bylaws promoting green infrastructure.

13. The Governments of Ontario, Ohio and Pennsylvania should prohibit the sale and use of phosphorus fertilizers for lawn care, with the exception of the establishment of new lawns during the first growing season or in cases where soil testing indicates a need for phosphorus.

Strengthening Monitoring and Research in the Lake Erie Basin

14. The Governments of the United States and Canada should commit sustained funding to enhance and maintain monitoring networks in the Lake Erie Basin, focusing on:

• tributaries throughout the Lake Erie Basin, including key sub-basins and wet weather events to capture seasonal differences from a wider range of basin tributaries;

• dissolved reactive phosphorus which, in addition to total phosphorus and other parameters, will need to be regularly monitored at all appropriate sites;

• establishment of water quality monitoring stations to quantify the nutrient dynamics from Lake Huron through St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair;

• establishment of a continuous, long-term water quality monitoring system at the outlet of the Detroit River that measures critical nutrient parameters; and,

• an evaluation of the cumulative effectiveness of urban and rural best management practices.

15. The Governments of the United States and Canada should support research to strengthen understanding of:

• the dynamics of harmful algal blooms through a comprehensive limnological approach to studying entire bloom communities;

• how open-lake disposal of dredged sediments from the Toledo navigational channel affects phosphorus loadings in Lake Erie;

• environmentally sustainable methods of sediment disposal;

• how various factors, such as the interaction of lake water with land-based runoff and tributary discharges, can be used to predict the conditions associated with nuisance blooms under current and future climate change scenarios;

• how Lake Erie's diverse and productive fish communities could respond under the warming trends and altered precipitation patterns associated with continued climate change; and,

• the economic effects of Lake Erie algal blooms throughout the entire lake basin.

16. The Governments of the United States and Canada and organizations involved in lake management should improve data management through greater coordination and sharing.

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