Ohio to Cap Total Daily Phosphorus Load Into Lake Erie

Lake Erie often garners national attention for its algae blooms. ( Aerial Associates Photography Inc by Zachary Haslick )

Phosphorus runoff will soon be reduced to protect the waters of Lake Erie. In the Ohio 2020 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report, research showed that Lake Erie’s algal blooms have increased to a level that puts the body of water as a “high priority,” specifically to the western basin shoreline.

Ohio is developing a total maximum daily load (TMDL) for phosphorus to try to improve the health of the lake. It’ll take about two to three years to develop the TMDL, according to Ohio EPA in its draft 2020 Integrated Report.

Together with Canada, citizens in the U.S. that impact the Great Lakes created an agreement to protect the waters for recreational and wildlife, which includes tracking and measuring success. This agreement called for a 40% reduction in spring loads of phosphorus from the Maumee River—according to Ohio EPA, this equals a target spring load of 860 metric tons per year of total phosphorus starting this year.

“The goal is to limit the formation of harmful algal blooms in nine years out of 10,” the report states. They don’t have a specific daily number to announce yet, instead providing the yearly goal.

Ohio EPA specifically highlights a plan called H2Ohio as an example of what could be used to reduce phosphorus runoff into Lake Erie from nonpoint source polluters, an area in which agriculture is categorized. A few key features of that plan include:

  • Implementing ag best practices
  • Creating wetlands
  • Improving wastewater infrastructure
  • Replacing failing home septic systems

The western shoreline, the target of reducing phosphorus runoff, includes from the Michigan/Ohio state line to the Marblehead Lighthouse. Before this year this watershed was considered impaired, not a “high priority” designation like today.

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