Apr 13, 2018

Judge Delivers Major Decision on Lake Erie Impairment Controversy

U.S. District Judge James G. Carr accused the U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA of ‘bad faith’

Judge delivers major decision regarding Lake Erie impairment controversy

In a major legal decision, Senior U.S. District Judge James G. Carr ruled against the U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA for their handling of the Lake Erie impairment controversy. The decision is seen as a significant victory for clean drinking water by environmental advocates.

The 25-page order gives the U.S. EPA 30 days to reconsider its decision to not oppose Ohio EPA’s ruling that waters in western Lake Erie did not meet criteria to be considered impaired under the Clean Water Act. Ohio EPA initially made this ruling on Oct. 20, 2016.

Two days following Ohio EPA’s decision, a lawsuit was brought forth by the Environmental Law & Policy Center and Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie, in unison. The U.S. EPA looked over the case, but ultimately deferred to the state agency’s judgement without making a formal ruling. The new ruling by Judge Carr remands the case back to the federal agency.

Judge Carr’s order claims that the state agency’s reluctance to declare the western basin of Lake Erie impaired dates as far back as 2012. In 2014, Toledo, Ohio, was suffered a water crisis that saw the city’s tap water contaminated by an algal toxin. More than 500,000 metro area residents were told to avoid the water for three days.

Lake Erie’s western basin has exhibited toxic levels of algae since 1995, severe enough to make people sick or even die. The main pollution source leading to such high levels of algae mainly stems from agricultural runoff. Judge Carr will maintain jurisdiction over the case, and both the U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA declined comment as they review the order.