Just approved bill deals with Lake Erie and other environmental concerns

A just-passed bill on the environment that's been sent to Gov. John Kasich has several useful provisions backed by environmentalists, an Ohio Environment Council official said Friday.

Senate Bill 2 includes provisions dealing with sediments dredged from Lake Erie, drinking water regulation and solid waste. It passed the House Wednesday, the final step for passage before the measure is signed into law.

"There are some good things in this bill," said Kristy Meyer, managing director for natural resources at the OEC. Kasich is expected to sign the bill, said Heidi Griesmer, a spokeswoman for the Ohio EPA.

The measure, authored by state Sen. Cliff Hite, R-Findlay, updates the mission of the Ohio Lake Erie Commission to focus upon protecting and restoring Lake Erie, and helping officials meet the goal of reducing phosphorus in the lake, a key step in curbing harmful algal blooms. Using the Lake Erie Commission to cut across state agency lines to deal with the lake's problems seems like a useful step, Meyer said.

Another provision of the bill deals with open lake dumping of materials dredged by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to aid shipping in Lake Erie. It sets state standards for the beneficial reuse of dredged materials.

"Potential users and marketers of dredged material will have defined criteria for classifying this material," said a fact sheet on the measure released by the Ohio EPA.

Open lake dumping in Lake Erie will soon be banned by state law, so officials are seeking other ways to dispose of the dredged dirt.

Meyer said setting up a regulatory framework for that is a useful step.

"Once they move forward with the rules, the devil is in the details," Meyer said.

But she said state officials have shown so far that they are listening to environmentalists.

Another provision of the bill gives the Ohio EPA the right to intervene when owners of private water systems are unwilling or unable to make repairs to provide safe drinking water. New or modified private water systems would have to show they have the financial ability to make needed repairs.

There have been incidents in which trailer parks were not providing water to their customers, and the bill addresses that, Meyer said.

The measure also has a provision seeking to ensure that construction and demolition debris is properly disposed of.

There's also a section that gives the Ohio EPA more power to evaluate and clean up abandoned landfills.

Meyer also said Friday that she is disappointed the Ohio General Assembly has not passed legislation dealing more decisively with Lake Erie's algal bloom problem.

Early forecasts suggest this year's harmful algal bloom will be larger than the one in 2016, and that may put pressure on lawmakers to act, said Meyer. She contends that lawmakers need to be more active in regulating how fertilizer is used on farms.

Date Published: 

Saturday, June 24, 2017