EPA Awards Additional Funding to Target Algal Blooms

Federal and state agencies receive more than $3.1 million in additional funding to reduce algal blooms in Lake Erie.

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The U.S Environmental Protection Agency recently announced the additional award of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds totaling over $3.1 million to target harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie.

Earlier this year, EPA officials met with state and federal agencies to identify priority actions to reduce harmful algal blooms in the Western Lake Erie Basin and in September announced that up to $12 million would be made available to state and federal agencies (see Great Lakes Initiative Targets Algal Blooms).

Grants totaling $8.6 million were awarded to the states of Ohio, Indiana and Michigan in October to implement many of these projects.

“This new Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding will be used to expand ongoing efforts to reduce the amount of phosphorus entering Lake Erie and to improve our ability to detect and forecast outbreaks of harmful algae,” says Susan Hedman, an EPA regional administrator. “EPA is making this funding available now so that priority projects can be implemented before the next algae season.”

“As we learned from this summer’s drinking water crisis, we ignore threats to our precious Great Lakes at our peril,” says Sen. Carl Levin. “These grants highlight the importance of the GLRI in combating this and other threats to the lakes.”

“The rise of harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie is an environmental crisis that deserves our attention and demands immediate action, and I’m happy to see this additional funding made available,” says U.S. Rep. John Dingell.  “Not only do we have an obligation to preserve the Great Lakes for future generations, but the American people deserve peace of mind in knowing they always will have safe water to drink.”

GLRI funding will be provided to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey to improve algal bloom forecasting and water-quality testing. The Natural Resources and Conservation Service will receive funding to expand financial assistance for agricultural conservation practices in the Western Lake Erie Basin. The award to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development will supplement a GLRI grant awarded to the agency in October to improve nutrient management on Michigan farms.

In early August, the city of Toledo issued a "do not drink" order for almost 500,000 people in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan when a drinking-water treatment plant was adversely impacted by microcystin, a toxin generated by a harmful algal bloom in western Lake Erie. In addition to generating toxins that pose risks to human health, harmful algal blooms contribute to low-oxygen "dead zones" in the deeper waters of Lake Erie and harm shoreline economies.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was launched in 2010 to accelerate efforts to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world. Great Lakes Restoration Initiative resources are used to strategically target the biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem. Great Lakes Restoration Initiative resources have been used to double the acreage enrolled in agricultural conservation programs in the western Lake Erie, Saginaw Bay (Mich.) and Green Bay (Wis.) watersheds where nutrient runoff contributes to harmful algal blooms.

The recently released GLRI Action Plan lays out a strategy for increased federal efforts to reduce agricultural and urban runoff in these three priority watersheds from 2015 to 2019.


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