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Advocate Says Lake Erie Algae Problems Threaten Growth of 'Blue Economy'

Algal blooms in Lake Erie generate toxins that have contaminated the drinking water in the Toledo area. Four years ago the state legislature passed a measure meant to reduce phosporous getting into the lake, but environmentalists say it has increased.

The term “green economy” refers to growth that’s environmentally friendly. The head of the Cleveland Water Alliance says there’s a new term growing in regional importance—that’s the blue economy.

“The blue economy or water cluster added almost 1K net new jobs…”

Bryan Stubbs, left, executive director of the Cleveland Water Alliance provides testimony to Cleveland City Council's subcommittee on Lake Erie Water Quality April 25, 2019. Others testifying included Destinee Henton, center, of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, and Max Shaefer, right, from the Ohio Environmental Council. Frank Greenland from the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District also offered testimony.

Bryan Stubbs heads the Cleveland Water Alliance. He said a new report from NASA Glenn finds that water related jobs in Cuyahoga County grew faster in recent years than advanced manufacturing, additive manufacturing and biotech combined. He told a Cleveland city council subcommittee studying Lake Erie water quality that not taking care of the problems with toxic algae in the Lake and surrounding waterways would hurt that growth in a number of ways. 

“It’s about avoidance cost and then the branding and exposure of this community that we’re all working damn hard to say ‘this is what Cleveland looks like today. Come here cuz we have jobs for you.’ If we have a dirty river, a green river, and a green lake it’s not gonna happen.”

Stubbs advocates using technology to monitor Lake water in real time, taking the guesswork out of what he calls the blame game.  

The lake algae has been linked to phosphorus coming from farm fertilizer and livestock manure. Councilman Mike Polensek noted the power of the well-funded and well-organized farm lobby. 

Councilman Polensek said advocates for a clean Lake Erie need an organized effort to take on the powerful farm lobby.

“If history tells us anything, we are not gonna be successful unless we have likewise lobbying efforts in Columbus.”  

Members of the group agreed a coordinated effort is needed to ensure the region receives adequate resources from Governor Mike DeWine’s new H2Ohio fund to protect water quality.

A Northeast Ohio native, Sarah Taylor graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where she worked at her first NPR station, WMUB. She began her professional career at WCKY-AM in Cincinnati and spent two decades in television news, the bulk of them at WKBN in Youngstown (as Sarah Eisler). For the past three years, Sarah has taught a variety of courses in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State, where she is also pursuing a Master’s degree. Sarah and her husband Scott, have two children. They live in Tallmadge.