Agricultural Runoff is Polluting the Lake

Tom Henry, reporting for The Blade:

Jeff Reutter, the Ohio Sea Grant and Ohio State University Stone Laboratory director, frequently makes this point to groups hearing any one of the dozens of presentations he makes each year: More than two-thirds of today’s phosphorus in western Lake Erie comes from agricultural runoff. In the 1960s, more than two-thirds of it came from poor sewage treatment...

While people in Toledo may think of Lake Erie water quality as a sewage or factory issue, it is increasingly an agricultural land-use issue. The Maumee River watershed — the largest and the most important for western Lake Erie — is 73 percent agricultural land, Ms. Johnson said.

Mr. Reutter and other officials have been part of a state task force studying the phosphorus problem, which — to no one’s surprise — generally has been trending upward since 1995, when the first major bloom of toxic microcystis algae was detected in western Lake Erie since the 1970s.

One exception was during the drought of 2012. That, according to Mr. Reutter, only amplifies the strong correlation between agricultural runoff and western Lake Erie algae. In its latest report, the task force called for a 40 percent reduction in farm runoff.

Powerful the agricultural interests have become, the dark side I sense in them.