It’s BAAACK– algae on Lake Erie. So scary, Congress actually takes action

True color satellite image showing last year’s bloom in Lake Erie at its maximum intensity on September 29, 2014. Data from NASA’s Aqua satellite. (Credit: NASA).

I’m working this for Marketplace today (airing tomorrow morning). Here’s the pitch I sent:

Remember how nobody in Toledo could drink tap water last summer? Its threatening to happen again– toxic algae is blooming on Lake Erie, and it looks scary. People are stocking up on bottled water— andstores are setting limits on how much customers can buy.

Congress has actually voted to require the EPA to make some kind of plan to keep this from happening all the freaking time. (Which suggests that Congress finds this scarier than say, hitting the federal debt ceiling and allowing the economy to go off a cliff.)

So… What would an EPA plan look like? What’s causing the problem?

Multiple factors:

  1. Climate change. Algae like it warm.
  2. Agricultural runoff:  Algae like nitrogen and phosphorous– fertilizers. (Give climate change extra points here for creating bigger storms that push more fertilizer-laced water toward the lake.)
  3. Aging infrastructure: That’s your leaky septic tank, right there. Also good source of nitrogen and phosphorous.

So, yeah– no big.

Let’s dig into numbers 2 and 3.  What’s the price tag on fixing them– and who the heck would pay it? Farmers? Septic-tank owners? Consumers who eat agricultural products (i.e., all of us)? Taxpayers?

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