International Panel Recommends Nutrient Diet to Battle Toxic Algal Blooms in Lake Erie
The International Joint Commission (IJC) released a report yesterday urging the states of Ohio and Michigan to declare the waters of the western Lake Erie basin impaired from nutrient pollution. The report, A Balanced Diet for Lake Erie: Reducing Phosphorus Loadings and Harmful Algal Blooms, and its 16 recommendations to help address the challenge of deteriorating water quality in Lake Erie.
The IJC comprises three appointed Commissioners from the U.S. and three from Canada. Their role is to protect the waters that the U.S. and Canada share.
Declaring impairment from nutrient pollution would trigger a Total Daily Maximum Load (TMDL). A nutrient TMDL would determine the maximum amount of nutrients that the western Lake Erie basin can receive along with a reduction plan aimed at meeting water quality standards for cleaner water.
In 2011, Lake Erie experienced a record harmful algal bloom that stretched from the shores of Monroe, MI, past the shores of Cleveland, OH. The toxins within the bloom were 1,000 times higher than what the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends for recreational contact.
2012 did not produce a large harmful algal bloom due to the drought the region experienced, further confirming that weather plays a large part in how large the bloom grows. In 2013, a whole township was unable to drink or bathe in the water coming from the local plant due to toxins 3.5 times higher than what the WHO recommends for safe drinking water.
"So much is at stake, from our economy to human health," said Kristy Meyer, of the Ohio Environmental Council. "The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Environment Canada have a duty to residents to develop a TMDL or TMDL-like plan for nutrient reduction and ensure that states and provinces are implementing the plan."
The Maumee River is prioritized in the report as the major contributor to the reoccurring harmful algal blooms in the western Lake Erie basin, providing 43 percent of the nutrient pollution flowing into the lake. Approximately 4.5 million acres of agricultural land drain into the Maumee River before entering into Lake Erie. While federal and Ohio agencies are focusing on the reduction of nutrient pollution in the Maumee River watershed, to date state agencies have not taken a strategic and focused reduction approach. Rather there has been a buck shot approach to implementing best management practices on agricultural lands.
A Balanced Diet for Lake Erie: Reducing Phosphorus Loadings and Harmful Algal Blooms
The report also prioritizes the Detroit River for monitoring to fully understand the amount of phosphorus flowing down the Detroit River from the Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant and its role in fueling the harmful algal blooms in the western Lake Erie basin. In 2011, 3.2 billion gallons of diluted raw sewage, 44.3 partially treated sewage, and 1.2 million pounds of phosphorus flowed from the Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant into the Detroit River and then into Lake Erie. While the wastewater plant provides five percent of the total phosphorus, scientists estimate that 13 percent of Lake Erie's dissolved reactive phosphorus—phosphorus that is ready to be used by plants—comes from this single source. In addition the Detroit River is estimated to discharge 42 percent of Lake Erie’s total phosphorus and 52 percent of the dissolved reactive phosphorus.
"There seems to be this mystical Ohio/Michigan/Ontario line in the water when it comes to the research, with little understanding of how sources from Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Ontario collectively play a role," said Sandy Bihn, executive director of the Lake Erie Waterkeeper. "A western basin TMDL would require consideration of waters in Ohio and Michigan, with cooperation from Ontario. The TMDL also would determine the quantity and source of the nutrient pollution, which includes agriculture, manure, wastewater and stormwater runoff."
The report also calls out the need to better understand how the placement of dredged sediments from the Toledo Harbor into the open waters of Lake Erie exacerbates the harmful algal blooms. Each year the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredges approximately two Empire State Buildings full of sediment from the Toledo harbor so that tanker ships can utilize the port.
Since the 1980's the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has asserted that this practice lowers water quality. In 2010, the Ohio EPA sent a letter to Lt. Colonel Daniel Snead at the Corps Buffalo District calling for the end to a harmful practice that they believed was exacerbating harmful algal blooms and impacting wildlife.
A Balanced Diet for Lake Erie: Reducing Phosphorus Loadings and Harmful Algal Blooms
"This has been a continual battle between the Ohio EPA, the people of the state, and the Army Corps," said Meyer. "We want the port to stay open, but we need to stop this harmful practice which reintroduces phosphorus into the water column, amongst other wildlife impacts."
When dredged sediments are dumped into the open waters of Lake Erie, phosphorus becomes resuspended into the water column—the water that spans from the bottom of the lake to the surface of the lake—smothering habitat as it settles out once again.
A couple of years ago the Ohio EPA started to propose rules that would limit open-lake disposal of dredge materials to no more than 50,000 cubic yards, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stated that they would no longer dredge the Toledo Harbor. Not wanting to stop commerce at this port, the Ohio EPA reluctantly gives permission to dump dredged sediments that are contaminated with phosphorus year after year. In 2013, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dumped 1.1 million cubic yards of phosphorus laden sediments into the shallow waters of Lake Erie.
"How all of these sources play a role in fueling HABs in Lake Erie is why a TMDL is so badly needed for western Lake Erie," said Meyer. "Each year is like waiting for the loaded gun to fire."
Visit EcoWatch’s WATER page for more related news on this topic.
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By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.
1. Fragrance – Avoid It<p>One of the fastest ways to narrow down your product options is immediately eliminating any product that promotes a fragrance, or parfum. That scent of "fresh breeze" or lemon might initially smell good, but the fragrance does not last. What does last? The concoction of various undisclosed and unregulated chemicals that created that fragrance.</p><p>Many fragrances contain phthalates, which are linked to many health risks including reproductive problems and cancer.</p>
2. With Bleach? Do Without<p>Going scent-free should have narrowed down your options substantially – now, check the front of the remaining packaging. Any that include ammonia or chlorine bleach ought to go, as these substances are irritating and corrosive to your body. While bleach is commonly known as a powerful disinfectant, there are safer alternatives that you can use in your home, such as sodium borate or hydrogen peroxide.</p><p>While you're at it, check if there are any warnings on the label – "flammable," "use in ventilated area," etc. – if the product is hazardous, that's a red flag and should be avoided.</p>
3. Check the Back Label<p>Flip to the back of the remaining contenders and check out that ingredient list. Less is more, here. Opt for a shorter ingredient list with words you recognize and/or can pronounce.</p><p>You may notice many products do not have ingredient lists – while this doesn't necessarily mean they contain toxic ingredients, transparency is key. Feel free to look up a list online, or stick to products that are open about their ingredients.</p>
4. Ingredients to Avoid<p>We already mentioned that cleaners containing fragrance or parfum, and bleach or ammonia should be avoided, but there are other ingredients to look out for as well.</p><ul><li>Quaternary ammonium "quats" – lung irritants that contribute to asthma and other breathing problems. Also linger on surfaces long after they've been cleaned.</li><li>Parabens – Known hormone disruptor; can contribute to ailments such as cancer</li><li>Triclosan – triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals are registered with the EPA as pesticides. Triclosan is a known hormone disruptor and can also impact your immune system.</li><li>Formaldehyde – Causes irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; studies suggest formaldehyde exposure is linked with certain varieties of cancer. Can be found in products or become a byproduct of chemical reactions in the air.</li></ul>
Cleaning Products and Toxics: The Bottom Line<p>Do your research. There are many cleaning products available, but taking these steps will drastically reduce your options and help keep your home toxic-free. Protecting your home from bacteria and viruses is important, but make sure you do so in a way that doesn't introduce other health risks into the home.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649054624#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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Twenty-five years ago, a food called Tofurky made its debut on grocery store shelves. Since then, the tofu-based roast has become a beloved part of many vegetarians' holiday feasts.
By Jessica Corbett
A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
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Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.