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Area residents urged to help lower phosphorus load in Maumee River to prevent algae blooms in Lake E

March 16th, 2016


News Coverage:

March 15, 2016

Area residents urged to help lower phosphorus load in Maumee River to prevent algae blooms in Lake Erie

Kevin Kilbane | News-Sentinel

The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement calls for residents of the Maumee River basin to reduce phosphorus levels reaching Lake Erie by 40 percent by 2025, and it will take a community effort to achieve it, Christopher Winslow said Tuesday during a stop in Fort Wayne.

Winslow, the interim director of Ohio State University's F.T. Stone Laboratory on Lake Erie and associate director of the university's Ohio Sea Grant College Program, spoke with media between making presentations to various community groups, ranging from farmers and Amish residents to local government and community leaders. The press conference took place on the Historic Wells Street Bridge with the rain-swollen, muddy brown St. Marys River flowing by below.

Winslow was assisted by the Tri-State Watershed Alliance, a nonprofit organization based in Fort Wayne that works with communities in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan to help them use their natural water resources for environmental health and economic growth.

The heavy load of phosphorus washing off land in the Maumee River watershed feeds massive algae blooms in the western basin of Lake Erie. The watershed drains about 7.1 million acres in northeast Indiana, northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.

High levels of algal toxins in the lake water shut down the city of Toledo's drinking water system in August 2014. In 2011, concentrations of the algal toxin microcystin in open waters in Lake Erie's western basin measured 50 times higher than the World Health Organization limit for safe body contact and 1,200 times higher than the limit for safe drinking water, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported at http://www.epa.gov/glwqa.

Winslow said more funding is needed to support research on what land and water management practices work best to keep phosphorus on the land, where it fertilizes crops. Sources of problem phosphorus include run-off of commercial fertilizer or manure applied on farm fields and animal waste washed into streams from farm yards. Faulty or leaking septic systems and residential fertilizer use also can contribute to the problem.

Research projects currently are studying how to identify the precise amount of phosphorus needed on farm fields, Winslow said. Soil conditions can vary by zones within the same field, so some areas may need phosphorus and other areas may not.

More research also needs to done on water and drainage management, Winslow said.
Once best management practices have been identified for various soil, terrain and drainage conditions, they can be rolled out to property owners, he said.

The effort dovetails with the 4Rs program promoted at two recent educational events in Fort Wayne, Winslow said. The 4Rs program encourages landowners and fertilizer applicators to apply the right type of fertilizer at the right rate of application, at the right time to benefit crops and avoid runoff, and in the right amount needed by the soil and crops.
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