U.S. EPA should solve algae problem

First Posted: 1/9/2015

We’re generally not big fans of federal government intervention in local issues. Still, we’re happy to see U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, make a common-sense suggestion where drinking water is concerned.

Latta, whose district includes Hardin, Putnam and Van Wert counties, reintroduced the Drinking Water Protection Act. Simply put, it seeks to find out how much algae blooms are hurting our water supplies and what can be done about it.

It all comes down to the role of cyanotoxins in the drinking water. It’s an issue that should be near and dear to Ohioans hearts. After all, the cyanotoxins have wreaked havoc on Grand Lake St. Marys for the last several years. And few of us will ever forget how they shut down Toledo’s water system last summer.

The important part is how reasoned the approach is. It’s not giving more power to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It’s just asking the agency to use research and problem-solving muscles it already has.

“It also requires the EPA to develop a strategic plan for assessing and managing the risks associated with cyanotoxins in drinking water and establishes attainable timelines that will ensure the health of our drinking water in a timely manner,” Latta said in a press release.

It also doesn’t write a blank check to the agency. It develops timelines to evaluate the health risks and publish a comprehensive list of potentially harmful cyanotoxins. It also demands feasible testing and treatment options, asking for the guidance and technical assistance for states so their drinking supplies aren’t so susceptible to the algae.

Now it’s up to the rest of Congress to move the legislation forward. Congressmen and senators need to review this legislation and get it passed. It’s in their best interest to do so, especially in agricultural areas similar to ours. The phosphorous abundance found in rural areas feeds the growth of cyanotoxins.

Any area that doesn’t think it will have a problem with them should consider Ohio’s plight. After all, it was just Grand Lake’s problem at first, until it popped up at other inland lakes and eventually into Lake Erie to affect Toledo’s water supply.

We’re glad to see Latta taking a proactive approach on this issue. It’s easy in this political environment to forget about a disaster the size of Toledo’s drinking water supply or of Ohio’s largest inland lake. It’s not necessarily popular for a Republican to push environmental legislation. Latta showed some political conviction, especially reintroducing something that didn’t go very far when he introduced it after a November hearing by the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Environment and Economy Subcommittee.

We’re hopeful Congress acts on this and acts on it soon. Something as fundamental as the safety of our drinking water could be at risk.

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