- Associated Press - Sunday, December 4, 2016

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - Congresswomen from Ohio and Michigan want the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to step in and designate western Lake Erie as an impaired waterway because of the harmful algae that has hurt water quality.

U.S. Reps. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio and Debbie Dingell of Michigan, both Democrats, said the action is needed because the lake needs a more coordinated federal response to the algae.

The state of Michigan in November declared its section of the lake as impaired because it said shoreline monitoring and analysis of satellite imagery showed that the western Lake Erie basin was failing to meet Michigan water quality standards.

Ohio officials have resisted calls from environmental groups and some elected officials to take the same steps. The state officials counter that the designation isn’t needed because Ohio already has made changes, such as limiting when farmers can spread fertilizer and manure on fields, to cut down the pollutants that help the algae thrive.

It’s typically up to states to develop lists of bodies of water that don’t meet federal water quality standards and designate them as impaired when too much pollution makes it unsuitable for aquatic life, recreation, public drinking water or other uses.

The U.S. EPA has the final say over the list, though, and the power to remove or add a waterway.

Kaptur and Dingell said Ohio should be brought into alignment with Michigan and that fixing the problem “requires additional legal enforcement” by the U.S. EPA.

“These blooms represent a serious health risk for our constituents,” they wrote in a letter to the EPA.

Lake Erie’s algae blooms are linked to dead zones where fish can’t survive and also contaminated the drinking water for more than 400,000 people near Toledo in 2014. The algae bloom a year ago was the worst on record.

The U.S. EPA is “concerned about the growing incidence and extent of harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie,” said Camron Davis, an EPA administrator who helps oversee Great Lakes issues.

But he did not specifically address the request for impairment status.

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