- Associated Press - Sunday, January 10, 2016

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - Two large wastewater plants in southwestern Ohio are being ordered to reduce how much phosphorus is released into a tributary of the Ohio River, the same kind of restrictions placed on wastewater plants along Lake Erie.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency said it’s a move that will improve water quality and cut down a key ingredient in the toxic algae blooms that have become a growing concern around the state.

Last summer, record-breaking algae blooms spread across Lake Erie and stretched for 600 miles in the Ohio River.

New discharge limits will be phased in over the next three years at the plants operated by Dayton and Montgomery County. The state last month rejected a request made by both plants to delay setting the limits.

The two plants, which send wastewater into the Great Miami River, will face the same limits as plants whose wastewater ends up in Lake Erie, said EPA spokeswoman Dina Pierce.

The new limits will be the first imposed on public wastewater plants on the Great Miami River. Two industrial plants that discharge treated water into the river also must comply with new phosphorus limits.

Agency officials decided to impose the limits following a 2010 water quality study of the lower Great Miami River, which flows into the Ohio River west of Cincinnati.

The study showed during the summer and early fall most of the phosphorus in the river comes from the Dayton and Montgomery plant discharges, Pierce said. The new limits will be in place only during those months.

Operators of both wastewater plants said they were disappointed the EPA didn’t wait to issue the new limits until the two systems could complete their own study of all sources of pollution in the river.

The study, which is being done with 14 other communities that discharge into the river, should help show how phosphorus levels are affected by urban runoff and farming, as well as the treatment plants.

Both the city and county said in a statement that more research is needed because the state EPA has not set a maximum amount of phosphorus the river can handle.

Tammi Clements, the head of Dayton’s water department, told the Dayton Daily News in September that agricultural runoff is likely a bigger source of phosphorus than the treatment plants and that setting limits on the plants would not help water quality.

Clements also expressed concern about how much it would cost to comply with the new regulations.

The EPA said that should not be a problem.

“The other systems have had this limit and have managed and haven’t said it’s economically burdensome to make the adjustments,” Pierce said.

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