Nutrient pollution has become a growing concern in the State of Ohio and elsewhere along the Great Lakes. In the summer of 2014, large algae blooms in Lake Erie generated toxins that contaminated the City of Toledo’s drinking water. In response, the City instructed 400,000 people not to drink or cook with tap water, prompting national media attention.
In this article, published in the Columbus Bar Lawyers Quarterly, Squire Patton Boggs attorney Rees Alexander evaluates Ohio’s attempts to regulate nutrient pollution from both point sources, such as industrial and sewer pipes, and nonpoint sources, such as runoff from fertilizer and manure used in agricultural operations. The article explains that while Ohio’s efforts with respect to point sources have helped reduce nutrient pollution, a growing body of data suggests that nonpoint sources are the primary cause of nutrient pollution. Therefore, Alexander criticizes a recent indication from Ohio EPA that it will introduce legislation to impose a strict 1.0 mg/l phosphorous limit for all municipal and industrial wastewater treatment systems. Ohio EPA’s legislation, Alexander explains, would undermine the efforts of stakeholders who favor a dynamic approach to nutrient regulation for point sources that accounts for whether the discharge would actually impact water quality in the receiving water body. Alexander concludes that it is unlikely Ohio will be able to achieve the State’s ambitious nutrient reductions goals by pursuing an unbalanced regulatory strategy that focuses largely on point sources.