Ohio EPA seeks comments on US Army Corps of Engineers’ Report

Ohio EPA is seeking public comments on a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ report entitled “Influence of Open-Lake Placement of Dredged Material on Western Lake Erie Basin Harmful Algal Blooms” and the Corps’ position on open lake disposal of dredge material in Lake Erie. The report, which analyzes the potential contribution of open lake disposal of dredge material to nutrient availability and its relationship to harmful algal blooms in the western basin of Lake Erie, is available at: http://wwwapp.epa.state.oh.us/dsw/USACE/.

The federal standard for the management of most material dredged from Toledo Harbor federal navigation channels is open lake placement, as it is the least costly, environmentally acceptable alternative that is consistent with sound engineering practices.   However, in recent years, the problem of harmful and nuisance algal blooms in the Western Lake Erie Basin has become widespread and has been linked to the increased loading of soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP). Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) occur in nutrient enriched environments when other factors, such as elevated temperature and calm water, are also present.

Some HABs produce toxins, called cyanotoxins, which can be harmful to human and animal health. In 2003, a large HAB event occurred after a significant increase in the quantity of Toledo Harbor dredged material placed in the Western Lake Erie Basin. Since then, there have been recurring concerns about the amount and intensity of annual HABs, and the potential exacerbating influence over external nutrient loads posed by dredged material placement in the Lake. The major factors of concern with regard to dredged material placement are: phosphorus release from the dredged sediment (exacerbating HAB development); changes in turbidity; and the horizontal transport of the material potentially leading to the transport of suspended solids and nutrients to other vulnerable parts of the basin, such as the potable water intakes for the City of Toledo and City of Oregon.

Comments on the report may be submitted to the Ohio EPA Division of Surface Water via email to dsw.webmail@epa.ohio.gov. The deadline for comments is February 9, 2015.

Kathy Milenkovski is an energy and environmental lawyer. She helps clients comply with complex state and federal regulatory programs and represents clients in litigation, appearing in administrative, state and federal courts.
 
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