Algae typically sounds harmless. In some cases though, algae can spread wide enough and in incredible density that they pollute a lake, making its water unfit for consumption. The exact thing happened in Lake Erie last summer, when the nearby city of Toledo in Ohio had to ban consuming water from the lake. The body of water had been tainted by dangerous levels of microcystin, which is a toxic byproduct created by algal blooms, the effects of which include fever, diarrhea, vomiting and allergic reactions in humans. On the other hand, the huge amount of algal blooms that summer were the result of fertilizers entering the lake from nearby farms, causing the algae to burst in numbers.
Following the incident, a House subcommitte on February 5, 2015, approved a bill that would command the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to prepare a strategy for the pressing problem. Currently, the EPA have not set standards that indicate what levels of toxins present a threat to humans.
The legislation was drafted by Bowling Green Grand Old Party (GOP) Representative Bob Latta. Its most important provisions were giving the EPA 90 days to come up with a “strategic plan” to Congress that would assess and manage the risks stemming from the polluted drinking water. To expound, the environmental agency would be tasked with preparing a list of the algal toxins, how these toxins could affect us, how to treat its effects, and offer the necessary expertise to other affected states.
Last year, a similar bill was drafted by Toledo Democratic Representative Marcy Kaptur and the two Ohio Senators. But Latta stated that his legislation offers a more complete tackling of the issue at hand, which is probably why the older bill was approved by the Senate but was rejected by the House. Unlike the older bill, Latta’s also orders the Government Accountability Office to report to Congress, in an effort to enhance efficiency of the environmental efforts among the agencies involved. Likewise, during a hearing on Latta’s bill performed by the House of Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, the American Water Works Association spoke up. They affirmed that the bill was wise to seek a well-rounded strategic plan for dealing with cyanotoxins rather than just giving the EPA a date to release its cyanotoxin toxicity standards.
With these commendations, Latta believes that it has a good chance for passage on the House of Representatives because of the many things that both political parties disagree upon, the toxic algae problem isn’t one. He adds, “People not only in Northwest Ohio, but across the country, look forward to the bill’s passage.”
Of the people dependent on drinking water from lakes, Mike Baker, the drinking water chief of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is definitely looking forward to it. He told the subcommittee that without the EPA guidance, the states will have no choice but to set the toxin standards for themselves.
From EPA’s end, the EPA has told the subcommittee that they will release health advisories for two cyanotoxins related to algal blooms this spring–advisories that inform people about the levels in which the toxins are harmful, and ways to treat the water tainted by the algae.
The head of EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water told the subcommittee EPA will release health advisories for two cyanotoxins associated with algal blooms this spring. He said they will describe levels under which harmful effects aren’t expected, and recommend ways to treat water affected by algal blooms.