Adopted May 18, 2016
Lake Erie Advocates will work as if the water emergency of August 2014 is ongoing, to vigorously safeguard the health of our lake.
We will conduct public education and actions to expose the environmental threats caused by factory farms and other sources.
We will work with broad coalitions to pressure government officials to get an impaired watershed designation for the Western Lake Erie basin, followed by a thorough cleanup. Our goal is to keep Lake Erie drinkable, fishable and swimmable.
The Water Crisis: Why We're Here
On August 2, 2014 nearly 500,000 Toledo area residents woke up without drinking water.
The culprit? A large mass of phosphorus dependent cyanobacteria which produced toxic microcystins. A problem decades in the making could no longer be ignored.
Lake Erie Advocates (LEA) is a grassroots organization that educates and mobilizes citizens to pressure public officials to do their job by protecting the public interest, our natural environment and its systems that sustain life. LEA supports an EPA "impaired watershed" designation for the entire Western Basin of the Lake Erie watershed.
What It Means & Why It's Important
Lake Erie Advocates wants the U.S. and Ohio EPA to declare Lake Erie an impaired watershed. This action would mandate a pollution inventory, the establishment of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) of pollutants that drain into our watershed and ultimately our drinking water and an enforceable action plan to greatly reduce the harmful runoff that fuels toxic blooms of microcystin-producing cyanobacteria.
Nutrient Pollution: CAFO "Regulation"
Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, is fueled by phosphorus pollution. Industrial agricultural practices, particularly common in CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) have been identified as a main culprit. The EPA designates CAFOs as "agricultural operations where animals are kept and raised in confined situations". CAFOs confine livestock for at least 45 days straight out of the year. Large CAFOs can house thousands of livestock in one confined area. Ethical implications aside, these animal factories greatly impact the environment.
According to the Michigan Sierra Club and the Less = More Coalition's "Follow the Manure" report there are 146 registered CAFOs within the Western Lake Erie Basin Watershed. These CAFOs house a combined total of almost 12 million animals, which produce an annual burden of 700 million gallons of waste. This excess manure produced within our watershed is laden with dissolved phosphorus - a key ingredient to the toxic algae bloom of 2014.
The Less=More Coalition exposed an injustice in the system when they found that federal funding through taxpayer subsidies actually covers the costs for CAFOs to manage such large amounts of waste. Promoting CAFOs and disregarding more sustainable, small scale agriculture is directly related to Toledo's water quality problems.
Impaired status also acknowledges that a problem does exist. It addresses the problem head on, rather than relying on voluntary pollution reduction programs. Ohio EPA Deputy Director for Lake Erie Policy, Karl Gebhardt and others have said that an impaired designation would put a "bad mark" on our region. The bad mark is already well known. You can even see it from outer space.