Toronto, ON – We are pleased to see the commitment from the federal and Ontario governments to address algal blooms in Lake Erie with a draft action plan. While this is a start, and we are encouraged to see there is an opportunity to provide public input before it is finalized, the plan needs to be strengthened to adequately address the increasingly frequent and severe algal blooms afflicting the lake.
Phosphorus pollution from agricultural fields and greenhouses is a key factor in causing algal blooms in the lake. While we are pleased to see that the draft plan addresses pollution from municipal wastewater facilities and the greenhouse industry, including a commitment to ensuring compliance with the rules, it fails to adequately address pollution from agricultural fields. Instead, there is an over-reliance on voluntary actions from the agricultural industry.
The plan needs to be strengthened in key areas including: addressing non-compliance in cases where the agricultural industry does not follow the pollution prevention laws, doing more to protect critical nutrient-absorbing wetlands from development, and identifying interim targets for addressing pollution in the eastern portion of the lake.
Without amendments, the draft plan will not achieve the governments’ obligations to reduce phosphorus pollution in Lake Erie. Last year, under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, Canada and the U.S. agreed to a 40 per cent nutrient reduction target for the lake. This target echoed a commitment that Ontario made with Michigan and Ohio in 2015 to reduce nutrient loading in the western basin of Lake Erie by 40 per cent by 2025. We are disappointed to see the 2025 timeline conspicuously missing from the draft Lake Erie Action Plan. A time-bound goal demonstrates commitment to immediate and comprehensive actions.
Lake Erie is a global treasure – it provides drinking water for millions of people, and supports a vibrant economy and a truly remarkable ecosystem. We need policies that translate into real action to ensure Lake Erie can provide safe drinking water and continue supporting its $12.9 billion dollar recreation and tourism industry.
We look forward to working with government and other stakeholders over the next 60 days to ensure the final Lake Erie Action Plan delivers results and meets the targets to ensure a healthy Lake Erie.
ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is Canada’s most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.
ABOUT FRESHWATER FUTURE (freshwaterfuture.org): Freshwater Future works to ensure the healthy future of our waters in the Great Lakes region. We help citizens engage in efforts to protect our natural environment by providing grants and offering consulting assistance to diverse communities and collaborators.
About the CANADIAN FRESHWATER ALLIANCE (freshwateralliance.ca): The Canadian Freshwater Alliance builds, connects and supports freshwater initiatives across Canada. We work with NGOs, community groups, governments and businesses to strengthen citizen voices and participation in protecting our lakes and rivers. We are a project on the Tides Canada shared platform (http://tidescanada.org/).
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