First Meeting of the Water Quality Council Held
After a year of reorganization and planning, the new Water Quality Council held its first meeting Wednesday, March 9 at the Lucas County Sanitary Engineers office. More than 40 people were in attendance including city, county, village, and township elected officials, wastewater operators, and sanitary engineers.
Chair of the WQC Carol Contrada noted the mission of the new council in her opening remarks. “Through the work of the Wastewater, Public Water Supply, Regional Water Planning, Watershed, and Stormwater committees, we are charged with creating an Agenda for Lake Erie,” she said. She cited the goal of a 40 percent reduction in nutrients entering the western basin of Lake Erie, noting that Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario are all agreed on that benchmark. Contrada asked the members of the council to consider their vision for the ongoing work of the group and for the region. In asking for a vote on the new council’s operating procedures, she noted that the document “represents a year of regional collaboration identifying goals, designing the framework of the council and continuing the critical ongoing work of the former Environmental Council.” Contrada further emphasized the importance of regional participation, and welcomed all TMACOG members to participate.
The next meeting of the WQC is Thursday, June 9 at 1:30 p.m., location to be determined. All meetings are open to the public.
The agenda for the first meeting featured three speakers, each addressing strategies for reducing the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen reaching Lake Erie. Dr. Justin Chaffin of the Ohio State University who works at Lake Erie’s Stone Labs gave an outline of algae life and explained how Microcystis fits into the greater Lake Erie ecosystem. Facts in his presentation made clear that the amount of rain from March through June has been a direct indicator of how much algae bloom we can expect to see in July and August. He said that Stone Labs will announce a forecast for this season’s algae bloom on July 7, 2016.
Tim Kwiatkowski of Michigan’s Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program was the second speaker. MAEAP is a voluntary association that helps farms of all sizes work to voluntarily prevent or minimize pollution from agricultural activities. Kwiatkowski described strategies and incentives that are effective in Monroe and Lenawee counties. Drainage control structures can retain 30-40% of nutrients that would otherwise run off the land into waterways.
Ron Wyss of the Lake Erie Improvement Association looked at both science and policy. He theorizes that the increase in phosphorus in the lake is due to more animals in less space leading to concentrations of nutrients from manure. As a farmer, he has studied the amount of fertilizer needed for optimum crop growth and concludes that farmers are using far more nutrients than necessary. He suggests that as a policy, any nutrient exceeding the amount needed for crop fertilization should be considered waste. He noted that farmers receive a lot of benefits from government and should accept mandatory soil testing on the same order as speed limits.
Members approved an amendment to the 208 Plan presented by the Wastewater Committee, approved operating procedures for the Stormwater Coalition, approved the 2017 Annual Work Program of the council, and heard from the Public Water Supply committee about recommendations it had made to the Ohio EPA about water testing protocol.
Jon Eckel, director of public service for the City of Perrysburg, is the vice chair of the Water Quality Council. Lucas County Commissioner Carol Contrada is the chair
One of the first orders of business at the meeting of the WQC was to acknowledge and thank the past chair of the dissolved Environmental Council, Ken Fallows. Carol Contrada and TMACOG’s Kurt Erichsen cited Fallows’ long commitment to regional cooperation which Fallows has called “regionosity.” They presented Fallows with a “regionosaurus” to recognize his influence and to thank him for his long service. Fallows was chair of the Environmental Council from 2002 through 2015. For two of those years he was also chair of TMACOG, and for 20 years he was the mayor of Haskins. He is currently on the Toledo-Lucas County Plan Commission among other activities.
-Carol Contrada, chair of the Water Quality Council, and Lucas County commissioner