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Businesses call for action on Lake Erie's harmful algae bloom

On the eve of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issuing its annual forecast for the algae bloom, businesses urge more action to address it.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — On Wednesday the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will issue its annual forecast for the harmful algae bloom in the western basin of Lake Erie.

On the eve of that report, businesses around the lake are urging that more be done to gain control of the annual occurrence which threatens wildlife, water quality, and economies.

The Great Lakes Business Network (GLBN) released a report not only issuing its concerns, but also proposed recommendations for remediation in Ohio, Michigan and Ontario.

Algae in the lake is primarily caused by nutrient run-off, with the most problematic contributions coming from fertilizer applications and other waste from agri-businesses that fail to properly control runoff or follow best practices, according to GLBN.

Some highlights from the report include:

  • Ohio: The 2011 harmful algal bloom cost Ohio $71 million in economic losses, which could happen again without reducing the nutrients that produce blooms.
  • Michigan: In Michigan’s Lake Erie watershed, wildlife recreation creates over 55,000 jobs and adds more than $2.4 billion to the regional economy. Harmful algal blooms put those jobs and economic activity at risk.
  • Ontario: Without reducing the nutrients that produce harmful algal blooms, it is estimated that harmful algal blooms could cost Ontario $272 million over the next 30 years, including a $110 million hit to the tourism industry.

Businesses are recommending practical solutions to reduce harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie, including the collaboration of Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario in meeting their commitments to reducing harmful algal blooms in the western basin of Lake Erie by 40% by 2025.

A report by the environmental group Alliance for the Great lakes issued a few years back referred to the effort up to that point as "lackluster."

Fertilizers used to feed crops, and the manure generated by livestock which is spread onto fields to further enrich the soil, is rich in phosphorus.

When washed by rainfall into tributaries which run to the lake, the material feeds the algae. Lake Erie is shallower and therefore warmer than the other Great Lakes, providing conditions that can further foster growth of the bloom.

With rainfall less than in previous years around the Western Lake Erie Basin, earlier projections called for the harmful bloom this summer to be smaller than average.

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