EPA release algal toxin plan

Staff Report

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released their initial strategic plan to assess risks associated with algal toxins in public drinking water as required under legislation authored by Rep. Bob Latta, The Drinking Water Protection Act.

“Solving the challenge of algal toxins in drinking water will require action at all levels of government and approaches that are collaborative, innovative, and persistent. EPA will work closely with other federal agencies, state and local governments, and the public to provide scientific and technical leadership on a number of fronts, including health effects studies,” said Joel Beauvais, U.S. EPA.

“This initial plan is a first step in the development of a comprehensive, long-term strategy for assessing and managing the risks of algal toxins impacting our public drinking water,” said Latta. “I am encouraged at this initial assessment, and look forward to continuing to work with local, state and federal officials to ensure the health, and safety of Ohioans is better protected from the threat of algal toxins in their drinking water.”

The legislation, signed into law by the President, required the EPA to develop the strategic plan, and submit its findings to Congress within 90 days.

“Last year nearly 500,000 Northwestern Ohio residents were left without safe drinking water due to the algal toxin outbreak in Lake Erie. I authored The Drinking Water Protection Act in response to this crisis to ensure the EPA was addressing this issue so we may better understand and further mitigate harmful algal toxins in the Great Lakes and other surface waters. Algal toxins continue to be a growing threat to public drinking water – not just in Ohio, but across the country.”

According to the EPA blog, in the next year alone, EPA intends to:

• Develop and propose recreational water quality criteria for two types of algal toxins (microcystins and cylindrospermopsin), which will help protect people who paddle, swim, and spend time by the water.

• Collaborate on workshops to address HABs’ impacts on drinking water and activities to protect drinking water sources.

• Evaluate whether to include certain cyanotoxins in the fourth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, which will require the collection of drinking water to better understand whether these toxins are present in drinking water systems.

• Assist utilities in managing the risks from cyanotoxins to drinking water.

• Publish monitoring data for cyanobacteria and microcystins in the National Aquatic Resource Survey National Lakes Assessment.

• Accelerate development and use of technologies that can recover nitrogen and phosphorus from animal manure and generate value-added products by partnering with the dairy and swine industries on the Nutrient Recycling Challenge.

• Improve EPA’s Drinking Water Mapping Application for Protecting Source Waters.

• Co-lead an interagency working group to develop a Comprehensive Research Plan and Action Strategy to address marine and freshwater HABs and hypoxia.

• Provide funding for critical projects that reduce nutrient pollution that fuels HABs in the Great Lakes.

Staff Report