Heed Ohio EPA’s Integrated Report

. August 9, 2016.

The inland beach at Maumee Bay State Park has been under contamination advisory since August 2 because of “high bacteria levels” from “unknown” pollution sources, according to University of Toledo scientists. The park’s Lake Erie beach has been under contamination advisory since August 8th. According to the Ohio Department of Health’s BeachGuard program, during a contamination advisory, “children, the elderly and those in ill health or with weakened immune systems are advised not to swim.” 

The latest water quality sample comes days after the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) released its biennial Clean Water Act-mandated “Ohio Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report” in late July, advising the US EPA to declare some nearshore zones (e.g. bays, harbors and estuaries) of the Western Lake Erie watershed as “impaired.” Declaring water areas impaired is a step forward, but it fails to hold accountable watershed-wide pollution sources.

Point vs. non-point

And while CAFOs are treated by the OEPA as regulatable point sources of water pollution, the Agency claims it doesn’t have the authority to regulate the offending feedlot operations because they’re non-point sources, contra to a 2013 US District Court Ruling against the American Farm Bureau (a powerful agricultural lobby) upholding the Clean Water Act’s regulation of non-point sources as well as point sources of pollution. 

That current OEPA Deputy Director for Water Resources Karl Gebhardt spent 19 years as the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation’s Director of Local Affairs where he “held numerous management positions in members services and government relations,” which perhaps sheds some light on the OEPA’s reluctance to regulate non-point water pollution sources. 

Want to know why the Ohio EPA doesn’t regulate nonpoint pollution sources?
Email your questions to karl.gebhardt@epa.ohio.gov
and ask when the OEPA will hold the public hearing in Toledo
to address concerns with the 2016 Integrated Report.
Let the City Paper know how Mr. Gebhardt responds.